Doha to Cardiff inaugural flight

Earlier this week, I was on the first Qatar Airways flight making its way from Doha to Rhoose – the first ever direct daily flight from the Gulf State to Wales.

 

In just under seven hours, this new flight plugs the Vale straight into one of the most dynamic economies in the Middle East, and an airport which offers a further 150 global destinations.

The ambition for a daily flight from Rhoose was on the agenda when I met Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker more than a year ago at a UK Government investment summit, continuing to personally press that case supported by the Office of the Secretary of State for Wales, the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence.

My previous visit last September was all about growing links and unlocking the region for Welsh exports. And our friendship with Qatar Airways was underlined on that occasion as, courtesy of the MoD, the Red Arrows to put on a 20-minute display, lacing the skies above Doha with red, white and blue smoke trails.

I spent time this week in the Gulf in a series of meetings with Government Ministers and investors designed to look at how Wales can increase mutual trade – for example looking at further projects with Aston Martin at St Athan. I met the Ministers responsible for commerce, the environment, education, financial services together with the chief executive of a major hotel group.

These are all areas where Wales is positioned for growth. The financial services sector in Cardiff is one of the fastest growing outside of London. We have outstanding universities keen to take Qatari students. We have a world-renowned tourism sector and a proven ability to host international sports events, of keen interest to a nation hosting the World Cup in 2022.

The arrival of the direct flight Qatar Airbus A350-900, with wings made in North Wales, should be taken as a resounding symbol of endorsement by a company of the belief in Wales.

Wales is now intent on joining the Premier League of countries trading in the Gulf with the Vale of Glamorgan at the centre of the action. Visitors arriving on the daily flight from Doha will get a warm welcome to the Vale and a clear message – this is a country with open skies, and open for business.