Forgotten Aircraft: A Look At Qatar Airways’ Airbus Narrowbodies

Think Qatar Airways, think widebodies and long-haul flights. Yet the oneworld carrier has 32 narrowbodies operating scheduled flights – all A320s and A321s – with another narrowbody route announced: from Doha to Almaty, Kazakstan’s largest city, 1,652 nautical miles away. While Emirates increasingly uses flydubai, Qatar Airways has its own in-house single-aisle aircraft.

Qatar Airways A320
Qatar Airways has 32 narrowbodies, but 50 are due to arrive. This photo was taken to celebrate ten years of the carrier serving the Bulgarian capital. Photo: courtesy of Sofia Airport.

Qatar Airways’ narrowbodies

Qatar Airways’ narrowbody fleet comprises 29 A320s and three A321s, according to ch-aviation.com. Its A320s average 9.2 years and have either 132 or 144 seats, comprising 12 in business (some fully lie-flat) and 120 or 132 in economy. For example, Doha to Sofia tends to use the higher density configuration.

Its three remaining A321ceos, meanwhile, average 11.2 years. They have 182 seats, with 12 fully-flat business seats and 170 in economy. All A321s are owned by the carrier, while the bulk of the A320s are leased.

Qatar Airways' narrowbodies vs. widebodies
Narrowbody flights fell by 32% between 2016 and 2019. It was primarily because of the A320, down by 22,753 movements. This decline meant that single-aisles had just 29% of Qatar’s total flights in 2019. Source OAG.

The A321neo will replace both types

The A321neo will replace both ceos with 50 much more fuel-efficient and environmentally stronger examples on order. They’ll have lower seat-mile costs. Ten examples are expected to be A321LRs, a type successfully used by various airlines across the North Atlantic and elsewhere, including from Nur-Sultan to Heathrow with Air Astana.

Earlier this year, Qatar Airways said its incoming A321neos will help right-size capacity to demand, improving seat load factors and route performance. It said they’ll be crucial during off-peak periods and to boost frequency – and therefore competitiveness – on thinner routes. If all 50 are delivered, narrowbody use will rise again.

Forgotten Aircraft: A Look At Qatar Airways’ Airbus Narrowbodies
While the carrier has three A321ceos remaining, A7-ADS isn’t one of them. Operating since 2004, it was retired in 2020. It now has the registration VP-CBJ. Photo: Qatar Airways.

Where do its A320s fly?

Looking ahead to October, some 51 destinations are due to see the A320 from Doha, including seven in Africa, such as Mogadishu, Somalia, served via Djibouti. Qatar Airways sees huge potential in Africa.

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Qatar Airways’ A320 network has an average sector length of 1,137nm in October, analyzing schedules information provided to OAG shows, with the longest route Helsinki (2,373nm). The Finland capital has a block time of up to six hours and 15 minutes, although it has just two round-trips scheduled by the single-aisle (24th and 31st). Most of the time, it is by the B787-8.

Qatar Airways A320 network in October
This is Qatar Airways’ A320 network in October. Image: GCMap.

The shortest A320 route

The shortest route is the 121nm hop to Dammam. The A320 has just one round-trip planned (28th), with the route – typically around 35 minutes in the air with a lot of maneuvering – scheduled to see most of Qatar Airways’ fleet. Mainly the B777-300ER, and also the B777-200LR, B787-8, B787-9, A350-900, A350-1000 – and the A320.

Qatar A320
This A320, leased from Castlelake, began with Qatar Airways in 2012. It last flew from Doha to Norwich on September 21st, perhaps for maintenance or to be returned to lessor. Photo: Sergey Korovkin via Flickr.

The 1,455nm link to Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen, on the Asian side of the city, will welcome the most A320 services, a route on which it competes directly with Pegasus. Routes from Doha with more than a once-daily flight in October are:

  • Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen
  • Baghdad
  • Mumbai
  • Erbil
  • Alexandria
  • Yerevan
  • Zanzibar

Have you flown any of the airline’s narrowbodies? If so, share your experiences in the comments.

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