Just a day after telling staffers that there would be a “substantial” loss of jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Qatar Airways has now announced that it plans to resume flights to as many as 80 destinations by the end of June. Before the pandemic, Qatar Airways served around 170 destinations worldwide, meaning that if the Doha-based airline manages to win regulatory approval for all the destinations it intends to serve, it’s network will still be less than half of what it was pre-Coronavirus.
While acknowledging that the situation remains “hugely dynamic” and services to some of the destinations might not go ahead as planned, the airline claims to have been able to make assumptions based on data it’s gathered from continuing to operate over the last few months.
As many airlines largely suspended operations, Qatar Airways continued flights and was called upon by a number of governments to operate special repatriation flights where commercial options were no longer possible.
“With entry restrictions constantly evolving, accurately predicting future travel is challenging,” the airline warns – but a spokesperson says there’s an “expectation that short-haul travel will rebound first, business between large global cities will pick up more gradually and there will be a move towards visiting family and friends following months of lockdowns.”
It’s “unique position” had allowed Qatar Airways to “monitor global passenger flows and booking trends to confidently begin planning the gradual reintroduction of additional flights and destinations to its network,” the statement continued.
At present, Qatar Airways is maintaining services to around 30 destinations but hopes to increase that number to 50 by the end of May. An initial focus will be on resuming or building services to key partner airline hubs like London, Chicago, Dallas and Hong Kong.
The next few weeks should also see the restart of flights to Manila, Amman, and Nairobi, as well as Madrid and Mumbai. Of course, all of these flights are dependent on the easing of travel restrictions and a general pick-up in passenger demand.
A further 30 destinations should then follow over the course of June, although those plans may change at short notice. While regional rival Etihad Airways is still eyeing a mid-June resumption of regularly scheduled flights, Emirates doesn’t now intend to restart normal operations until July at the earliest.
Both Emirates and Etihad will need to wait for authorities in the United Arab Emirates to lift tough travel restrictions that prevent foreign passengers even passing through the UAE’s airports. In Doha, while foreigners are not allowed to exit the airport as part of efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, there has never been a ban on transit passengers throughout the pandemic.
Despite its promise to quickly resume flights to more destinations, Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker warned of heavy job losses coming to the airline. “Despite all the efforts and hopes for a quick rebound, we are facing adversity of unprecedented scale,” Baker told employees in a leaked email.
“The global outlook for our industry remains grim and many airlines are closing or significantly reducing operating. Unfortunately, Qatar Airways is not immune to this challenge,” the memo continued.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.