10 Years Strong: Qatar Airways Celebrates Its Sofia Aniversary

Qatar Airways is celebrating a decade of flying to Bulgaria. Before the pandemic, the national airline of Qatar was operating the service as often as twice daily, and direct services to and from Doha are set to resume in December. They are currently operated via Bucharest.

Qatar A320 Sofia
Qatar Airways has been flying to Bulgaria for 10 years and one day. Photo: Qatar Airways

Qatar celebrates a milestone in Bulgaria

Yesterday, 14th September 2021, Qatar Airways celebrated a decade of operations in Sofia Airport (SOF), serving the capital of Bulgaria.

Complementing the celebration, the national airline and flag carrier of Qatar said it would resume direct services between Doha Hamad (DOH) and Sofia on 16th December this year.

Flights are currently running via Bucharest’s Henri Coandă Airport (OTP) in Romania. The stop in Bucharest is made in both directions. This enables Qatar Airways to run a daily service, maintaining high connectivity while splitting capacity between Bulgaria and Romania.

Qatar Airways’ Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said:

“We have long been proud to serve Bulgaria and connect this beautiful country with our global route network. I knew when we first began flying to Sofia that this was the start of a strong and enduring relationship. (…) Our flights have enabled travelers from around the world to experience Bulgaria’s hospitality and cultural history while supporting the export of Bulgarian products to overseas markets.”

Al Baker’s last sentence refers to the fact that Qatar offers 20 tonnes in cargo capacity via Qatar Airways Cargo on its flights to and from Bulgaria. Thanks to Qatar’s vast destination network, this capacity is an excellent boost for Bulgarian exporters and importers.

10 Years Strong: Qatar Airways Celebrates Its Sofia Aniversary
Even now, Qatar Airways offers daily links between Sofia and Doha. Photo: Qatar Airways

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How it all started

Qatar Airways first arrived in Bulgaria on 14th September 2011 when it launched a scheduled service from Sofia to Doha via Bucharest. Back then, just like now, flights were operated by an Airbus A320.

A year later, in 2012, the frequency was increased to five times a week.

In 2014, a direct service was introduced between Sofia and Doha, with the Bucharest stop dropped. The frequency was also boosted to daily.

In 2015, a stop was re-introduced, but this time to Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport (BEG) in Serbia. In 2016, this stop was dropped too, and the capacity of Doha-Sofia-Doha flights was boosted to two daily.

The twice-daily frequency stayed until the pandemic. Just before the pandemic, Qatar signed a codeshare agreement with Bulgaria’s flag carrier Bulgaria Air, boosting the attractiveness of these flights through feeder traffic on both ends.

Due to the outbreak of the pandemic, Qatar stopped flying to Bulgaria between March and October 2020. Ever since October 2020, the service has been running continuously with a stop in Bucharest, just like it was the case when the flights first launched in 2011.

10 Years Strong: Qatar Airways Celebrates Its Sofia Aniversary
In the past 10 years, Qatar only stopped flying to Sofia between March and October 2020. Photo: Qatar Airways

From 16th December, Qatar plans to split the Doha-Bucharest-Sofia flights to run them as two separate rotations once again. The schedule to Sofia is provisionally planned as follows:

  • QR227 departing DOH for SOF at 07:30 and arriving at 11:35
  • QR228 departing SOF for DOH at 12:35 and arriving at 18:15

The service will run four times weekly.

What do you think of Qatar’s decade of operations in Sofia?

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