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Lift Strict Passenger Caps or We’ll Stop Flying to Australia Warns Qatar Airways Chief Executive

Lift Strict Passenger Caps or We’ll Stop Flying to Australia Warns Qatar Airways Chief Executive

The chief executive of Qatar Airways has urged the Australian government to lift strict caps on the number of international arrivals allowed into major cities each week or risk the airline withdrawing from the country altogether. Akbar Al Baker repeated concerns that his airline was taking a heavy financial hit from continuing to operate the up to 12,375 km between Doha and cities such as Sydney with a maximum of just 60 passengers per flight.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Qatar Airways has continued to serve Australia while other airlines grounded planes and suspended services altogether. The airline now flies to five cities across Australia and has helped to repatriate as many as 180,000 Australian’s since the start of the crisis.

Photo Credit: Qatar Airways

But since July, there have been strict caps on how many returning Australian’s are allowed to enter the country through different cities. As a result, airlines also face caps on the number of passengers allowed on each service – of between 25 to 60 passenger per flight.

Constraining capacity by so much has led to a backlog of as many as 23,000 Australian’s who are stranded abroad and waiting for space on a flight to become available to get them home. Some are being bumped from flights, often at the last minute, to make room for higher-paying Business Class passengers who are paying upwards of A$10,000 per one-way ticket.

“We have between 38 and 42 seats in our business class. And because we have such a limited number of passengers that we can carry, we have no other alternative but to maximise the yield that we get because you know very well Australia is at the end of the world,” Al Baker explained on Friday.

His comments essentially confirm that passengers who have paid for cheaper Economy tickets are being bumped from flights with little to no warning.

“It is a very long flight and when we carry limited numbers of passengers you can see that it puts a huge strain on our costs,” he continued, reiterating concerns raised at a recent aviation summit.

Current caps could remain in force until October 24, although the Morrison government says the restrictions will only remain in force for as long as necessary. At present, only 350 passenger arrivals are allowed into Sydney, 500 per week into Perth and 500 each into Brisbane and Adelaide.

International flights remain banned from flying into Melbourne. Returning Australian’s also have to pay up to A$3,000 each for a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine. Al Baker shared his opinion on that arrangement, saying Australia should allow returnees to pay for Three, Four and Five star accommodation in the same way that Qatar has.

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