Qatar Airways close to buying stake in Italian airline Meridiana as it notes "manageable" decline in flights to US

 
Rebecca Smith
Qatar said there had been some turbulence regarding travel demand to the US
Qatar said there had been some turbulence regarding travel demand to the US (Source: Getty)

Qatar Airways is closing in on a deal to buy a stake in Italian carrier Meridiana, which will be signed in the "next couple of days", according to chief executive Akbar Al Baker.

The Italian airline is headquartered in Olbia and has bases across Milan, Naples, Rome and Verona.

Speaking to reporters at the Arabian Travel Market convention in Dubai, Al Baker also said the airline will not reduce flight frequency to the US, though passenger numbers have fallen somewhat over fears among some passengers that their visas may be rejected on arrival.

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He said the uncertainty is "affecting the business, but to a very small extent" and described the impact as "manageable", while calling President Donald Trump "a very wise individual and a very good businessman".

Fellow Gulf giant Emirates said last week it will cut flights on five US routes after restrictions imposed by Trump's administration, saying the tougher measures had weakened travel demand to the US.

It has reduced the number of weekly services to the US from 126 to 101, a month after the US government banned laptops and other electronic devices of a certain size from being taken into the cabin on flights from several Middle Eastern and north African countries.

Read more: Laptop ban branded ineffective by airline industry body IATA

Qatar, meanwhile, today announced plans to add San Francisco to its network of US destinations from next year. The airline has also announced long-haul flights from Cardiff Airport to the Middle East. Its flights to Cardiff are among the 12 new destinations for the airline, including San Francisco, as well as Kiev and Lisbon.

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