One of the world's top luxury airlines landed in Philly for the first time this morning connecting the City of Brotherly Love with a Persian Gulf nation in the Middle East.
Qatar Airways launched its 5-star nonstop service from Qatar's capital Doha to Philadelphia to as part of alliances with American Airlines and other U.S.-based carriers.
"It was obvious that we come and feed our airline’s partner from here," said Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker.
The inaugural flight of the service arrived Wednesday morning at Philadelphia International Airport to a water cannon salute.
Philadelphia political and business leaders have hailed the service. Mayor Michael Nutter said after last year's announcement that convenient international air service is essential to the economic vitality of the region.
Airport CEO Mark Gale called it a "huge deal" and told reporters that Qatar Airways is the first foreign flag carrier to enter Philadelphia in over a decade. Nutter estimated the airline will bring about 27,00 visitors to the city each year.
Al Baker said Philadelphia’s large Middle Eastern community as well as the city’s growth drew his airline to PHL.
Philly is the fifth in the United States served by the airline, which serves more than 120 cities in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, North America and South America. Qatar Air currently flies to North American locations including, Houston, Chicago, New York, Washington and Montreal. Service to Miami begins next month.
Qatar Airways is locked in fierce competition with rival Gulf carriers Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi and Dubai-based Emirates. All three are aggressively seeking new markets, including the United States.
Qatar Air isn't the first airline to directly connect Philly to the Middle East -- U.S. Airways (now American) has flown directly to Tel Aviv in Israel for the past few years.