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Qatar Airways Reinstates Airbus A380 After Surprise Surge in Passenger Demand

Qatar Airways Reinstates Airbus A380 After Surprise Surge in Passenger Demand

If you haven’t already got the message: “Stay at home”. That’s the new mantra as governments around the world try to stem the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic by either asking their citizens to stay indoors and shelter in place or by imposing lockdowns that restrict movement and curtail many freedoms. But some people, even now, still need to get home or have other very specific needs that involve international travel.

It’s becoming a lot harder for these people to get to where they are going. In the last few weeks and days, more and more travel bans and entry restrictions have been imposed around the world, often with very little notice. Airline after airline have grounded planes or severely cut back their schedules. If you need to travel, your options are becoming a lot more limited.

Photo Credit: Airbus

Which is why Qatar Airways is suddenly seeing a surge in passenger demand. In fact, the Doha-based airline is getting so many new bookings that it will reinstate some Airbus A380 superjumbo services that it had axed because of the Coronavirus outbreak.

While the Qatari government has banned anyone part from its own citizens from entering the country (who then have to enter a 14-day quarantine), Hamad International Airport is still able to process transit passengers and that gives Qatar Airways a major advantage over its competitors.

Middle East rivals Emirates and Etihad were forced to ground their entire passenger fleets on Wednesday night after the UAE government closed all of the country’s airports to all commercial flights including for passengers in transit.

Similar measures have been introduced at other major hub airports, including Hong Kong and Singapore

Qatar Airways has suddenly found itself as one of the last airlines able to get passengers to their destination. And while the airline has been forced to slash many routes, it’s still serving around 70 destinations across the globe and now reinstating it’s Airbus A380 just weeks after saying the double-deck plane would be grounded because of a lack of demand.

“It’s clear there is such a very strong desire amongst people all over the world to get home…”

Simon Talling-Smith, Qatar Airways’ chief commercial officer said a surge in demand stemmed from people trying to get home – although trying to keep the airline operating wasn’t without its difficulties at the moment.

“It’s a great test of a company’s agility and flexibility right now, because every time you’ve got a plan, the world changes when you wake up the next morning,” Talling-Smith told Executive Traveller.

“But it’s clear there is such a very strong desire amongst people all over the world to get home, so that is what we are wholly focused on right now – how can we get people home from right around the world.”

Qatar Airways says it has seen a “steady rise” in bookings throughout the week as other airlines axe flights, new entry restrictions emerge and governments around the world urge their citizens to return home quickly before commercial flights become unavailable.

Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar is one of five 'aviation mega-cities' in the Middle East. That number is forecast to more than double to 11 cities in the region by 2036. Photo Credit: Qatar Airways
Photo Credit: Hamad International Airport

“I don’t think any of us imagined a week ago that we’d be putting the A380s back in the air,” Talling-Smith continued.

“For example, we’ve reintroduced the third daily flight to Paris over the last few days, and reinstated the A380, because we’ve had very very strong demand from French nationals returning from all over Asia-Pacific.”

Some routes will see larger aircraft deployed while other destinations will get increased frequencies to cope with the increase in demand. Qatar Airways clearly sees its position, supported by the government of Qatar to continue flights, as a unique marketing opportunity.

The airline has taken to Twitter and Facebook to advertise the fact that 12 destinations, including London and Frankfurt, as well as Perth and Paris, will be upgraded with larger aircraft in the coming days to match the rise in demand.

How long Qatar Airways can keep this remains to be seen. For now, Qatar has largely avoided any restrictions from foreign governments, giving its national airline a unique opportunity for the time being at least.