Qatar Airways put a brave face on a record US $4.1 billion loss for the 2020/21 financial year as it released its annual report on Monday. Losses at the Doha-based airline more than doubled on the $1.9 billion loss it recorded in the first year of the pandemic, a result the government-owned airline had partly blamed on a major diplomatic spat with Saudi Arabia and several of its Gulf neighbours that has now been largely resolved.
The results mark the fourth straight year that the airline has reported a loss, going from -$69 million in 2017 to -$639 million in 2018. In June, rival Middle East super-connector Emirates reported a loss of $6 billion – the carrier had been hit hard by the UAE’s initial lockdown order which promoted an 8-week near-total grounding at the start of the pandemic.
In contrast, Qatar Airways continued flying throughout the pandemic and won lucrative contracts from several governments keen to repatriate citizens as global borders slammed shut last March.
“Whilst our competitors grounded their aircraft and closed their routes, we adapted our entire commercial operation to respond to ever-evolving travel restrictions and never stopped flying, operating a network our passengers and customers could rely on,” commented Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker on Monday.
Al Baker blamed a significant chunk of the loss ($2.3 billion) on a one-time impairment charge related to the grounding of its fleet of Airbus A380 superjumbos and A330 aircraft.
The A380’s remain listed within Qatar Airways’s fleet but the airline says the planes could remain grounded for years and may never return.
The airline’s only shareholder, the government of Qatar, has pumped $3 billion into the airline over the last 12-months, although Al Baker notes that, unlike many other airlines, Qatar Airways did not have access to wage support schemes, low-interest loans, or other pandemic support initiatives.
At the height of the pandemic, Qatar Airways was operating flights to just 33 destinations but has since regrown its network to 140 destinations, including nine new points including Abuja, Brisbane and Lusaka, as well as San Francisco and Seattle.
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.