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The debate about the Gulf airlines’ European expansion is taking a new turn, following a report that Qatar Airways secured additional traffic rights into France as part of a €6.3 billion ($7.03 billion) deal between Paris and Doha for the sale of 24 French-built Rafale fighter jets and an option for 12 more.
The Qatari national airline already operates three daily services to Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) with Airbus A340 and A380 aircraft, and now appears to have secured traffic rights to fly three times a week each to Nice-Côte d’Azur and Lyon-Saint Exupéry, respectively, which are France’s third- and fourth-largest airports in terms of passenger throughput after CDG and Paris-Orly. Last month, the French senate approved the privatization of Nice and Lyon airports (Aviation Daily, April 23).
French President François Hollande did not outright deny the Qatar Airways’ new traffic right, but stressed the arrangement with the airline was separate from the Rafale deal. Hollande and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani signed the Rafale contract on May 4 in Doha.