On Friday, October 16th, Qatar Airways will re-launch flights to Sofia, Bulgaria, with a thrice-weekly service. This marks the airline’s return to serving 100 destinations, with 700 weekly flights. Plans are to add another 25 before the year is over, including a new route to San Fransisco.
Focus on frequency as well as network
After a year where schedules have been decimated and demand utterly crushed as the world and aviation struggle to come to grips with the unfolding health crisis, it is nice with moments to celebrate. Tomorrow Qatar Airways will hit the 100-destination mark. The carrier will return to the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, flying via Bucharest, three times a week.
“As one of the few airlines to have continuously flown throughout the pandemic to take passengers home safely and reliably, we are proud to reach this significant milestone in the rebuild of our network,” Qatar’s CEO Akbar Al Baker said in a statement seen by Simple Flying.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.
Mr Al Baker also said that the plans are for Qatar to grow its number of destinations to over 125 by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the focus does not solely lie with network expansion but also on increasing frequencies for greater travel flexibility.
Over the past week, Qatar has also increased the number of flights to Madrid, Copenhagen, Stockholm (ten weekly flights each), and Manchester (17 weekly flights). On October 25th, the Doha-based carrier’s service to Singapore will increase to twice a day.
A380 remains grounded despite new long-haul route
As previously mentioned, by the end of 2020, Qatar Airways plans to have added another 25 destinations. Its network will then consist of 20 cities in Africa, 11 in the Americas, 41 across Asia-Pacific, 38 in Europe, and 15 throughout the Middle East. This includes a new direct route from Doha to San Fransisco, the airline’s ninth destination in the US, which will commence on December 15th.
The carrier’s long-haul routes will be operated by its Airbus A350s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners. The superjumbo A380s will remain on the ground for now, as Qatar has repeatedly iterated its stance that they are not commercially or environmentally justifiable to operate at this time.
On a side-sustainability note, Qatar Airways just recently upped its a la carte vegan meal-offering for business class passengers out of Doha.
Not enough to turn the tide?
Despite Qatar’s rather ambitious return to so many of its routes, its CEO, Mr Al Baker, believes that his airline is far from out of the woods and that losses will continue. While the airline never ceased operations and has flown over 37,000 flights carrying 2.3 million passengers since the beginning of the pandemic, it reported losses for the year ending March 31st, 2020, of close to $2 billion.
Do you think Qatar’s route plans will pay off, or are they too early and too ambitious given the current market? Let us know in the comments.