The Qatar Airways was saluted by Philadelphia fire units Wednesday morning as the inaugural flight pulled into Philadelphia International Airpot. It is the first of what will be once a day service to and from the airlines Persian Gulf home base.
The Philadelphia 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.
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 said Qatar Airways is the first foreign flag carrier to enter Philadelphia in over a decade.
Weary arriving passengers said the onboard service lived up to the airlines 5-star reputation.
"The flight was on time. The seats are comfortable, and the service was great," said Ali Al Kendari.
Business travelers welcomed the direct service to a Middle East location with easy connections to Asia and Africa.
"I wish there were more airlines flying directly from Philadelphia. It could help the economy of Philadelphia a lot," said Justin Sharaf.
Upstairs from the arrival hall, the airline hosted a reception. Monitors displayed some of its 136 worldwide destinations as well as images of Doha, Qatar's largest city known for its cutting edge architecture.
Gifts were exchanged between Mayor Nutter and the Airlines CEO. Both men talked up the new service.
"For Qatar Airways, every new route to the U.S. marks an even deeper relationship between our two countries," said Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways CEO.
Years ago PHL was considered by some an international aviation backwater, but now it has direct flights to more than 30 international locations.
One selling point, less crowding than New York and Washington gateways.
"For the flying public it is often easier, more convenient and more enjoyable, quite frankly, to come into Philly International than some of the other airports on the East Coast," said Mayor Michael Nutter.
So for now there is one flight a day. It arrives at about 8:00 a.m., and the plane is turned around and goes back to Doha two and a half hours later.
Airline officials say service could be expanded down the road if there is enough demand.