The Route Launch Experience: Qatar Lands in Boston
Okay, so maybe the whole “camera flashes” bit was a little (okay, a lot) embellished, but the rest is true. I don’t need to embellish, because it was one of the more posh events I had ever been a guest at. As for the protesters, I’ll get to them in a bit. Let’s rewind the clock a little bit first.
In the weeks leading up to the launch of this service I had been quite excited to see history made as Boston received its first ever A350. The radio ads for the new service that I would hear kept me excited for the day to arrive.
As it turns out, not everyone was excited as all of us aviation geeks have been. A billboard and a series of radio advertisements had been, and still continue to, call for a boycott of the airline due to alleged human rights violations by the airline against its employees. The group called AWARE, The Alliance for Workers Against Repression Everywhere was the driving force behind the advertisements. The aforementioned protesters had their signs adorned with the groups hashtag “#boycottQatar”.
On the morning of the gala I had attended a press conference at which Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, spoke about the launch of service between Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) and Doha’s Hamad International Airport (DOH), which kicked off on March 16, 2016. This is the ninth US destination for Qatar, having started service to Los Angeles on January 1 of this year. The tenth US destination will be coming in the form of Atlanta in June. Factor in an extra flight added to the schedule in New York, and one might conclude they have a lot going on this year.
The Qatar Airways team does not hold back when it comes to doing a route launch. While I had attended route launches before, with food and a Q&A session, I had not yet been to a gala. I previously left off with my journey to coat check. Not to keep you in suspense, I am happy to inform you that the rest of the evening was equally amazing.
The next stop after checking in was to have our photographs taken with two cabin crew members in front of the wall of red roses with the Qatar emblem emblazoned upon it.These were the same crew from the press conference and I was amazed that they remembered my name. After all, I was likely the smallest fish in a big pond that morning. The next stop down the red carpet was the opportunity to be greeted by H.E. Mr. Al Baker and his staff, and then it was on to enter the reception area.
Fine wines were the order of the night, accompanied by a wide variety of hors d’oeuvres, all while listening to a fine string performance. Soon, it was time to be seated for dinner, which included many courses of meals reminiscent of that which would be found aboard Qatar. The event was emceed by Giuliana Rancic, and of course H.E. Mr. Al Baker spoke again of the launch of Boston service and of the vision for Qatar Airways. The evening wrapped up with a performance by musical group En Vogue.
While I know that the videos shown during the event were advertisements meant to entice one to use the airline for tourist or business travel, I can’t help but feel a little more drawn to the region now. Sure, I would love to see beautiful white horses running up a beach,but I’m guessing that isn’t a daily or commonplace occurrence .
I saw something else while at that gala. I met folks that are actually from Qatar, from a whole other culture than my own. They were proud of their airline, they were proud of what they had become, and most of all, they were proud of who they were.
It’s really easy for me personally to get hung up on the airline side of things, like seat pitch, Open Skies issues, or equipment. Add in some personal misgivings about traveling to the Middle East after watching my generation march off to war in the region. It’s human nature. I also found that I was a little bit misinformed.
I had an eye opening experience attending the gala, talking to these people who love their home and love their airline. I enjoyed their company, and I also enjoyed their enthusiasm for their product that they feel represents themselves to the world. It’s the human side that got me in the end, and with that, I look forward to one day going to Doha on Qatar to experience it first hand.
Michael Lothrop is a lifelong aviation enthusiast and writer from Maine. Mike grew up around the airport and has a professional background in public safety and business. Follow him on Twitter.