Halfway There: Inside Qatar Airways’ European Recovery

Qatar Airways has more flights to Europe than anywhere else. But because of COVID, capacity to the region – including Turkey and the Caucasus – in November is just 47% of what it was in November 2019. This contrasts to 64% for Emirates from Dubai and 48% for Etihad from Abu Dhabi. Where will and won’t Qatar Airways be serving?

Qatar Airways Boeing 777-300ER
The B777-300ER will have more flights to the examined areas than any other type. Photo: Qatar Airways.

38 destinations in November

Qatar Airways will serve 38 destinations across Europe, Turkey, and the Caucasus next month, down from 53 in November 2019. Next month, ten airports across Central and Eastern Europe will see the airline, including Sofia on a one-stop basis via Bucharest, along with 24 in Western Europe, three in Turkey, and three in the Caucasus.

Heathrow has more flights than any other route, followed by Paris CDG, Frankfurt, Istanbul Airport, Madrid, Manchester, Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen, Barcelona, Stockholm Arlanda, and Kyiv Boryspil. That’s based on schedules information from data experts Cirium. If seats for sale are examined, Sabiha Gökçen is out – it is served only by narrowbodies – while Rome Fiumicino is in.

Qatar Airways' Europe, Turkey, Caucasus network November 2021
This is the carrier’s network across Europe, Turkey, and the Caucasus in November 2021. Image: OAG Mapper.

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Moscow Sheremetyevo is in, but Odesa isn’t

The 38 destinations include Moscow Sheremetyevo, replacing long-served Domodedovo, which entered the airline’s network in September 2004. Up until then, Sheremetyevo was served, so it is a ‘homecoming’ of sorts.

The destinations list doesn’t include the newly announced route from Doha to Odesa. This three-weekly service takes off on December 9th and will use A320s, a narrowbody often ‘forgotten’ in the airline’s widebody-focused fleet. It will actively target the 330,000+ people traveling to/from Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and parts of Africa, which in 2019 was mainly in the hands of Turkish Airlines.

Qatar A321
Use of the A321 will be higher next month than in 2019, with flights up by 57% mainly from Belgrade using the type and Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen seeing many more flights by it. Photo: Qatar Airways.

Where’s up and down?

Of Qatar Airways’ 38 destinations, Amsterdam, Belgrade, and Istanbul Airport have more capacity next month than in 2019. Belgrade is up by 28%, Istanbul by 22%, and Amsterdam by 16%, Cirium shows. Belgrade’s growth is from upgauging to A321s, and Schiphol is from upgauging from 354-seat B777-300ERs to 412-seaters. A simple and cost-effective way to grow.

In an absolute sense, the 1,713-mile (2,756km) link to Turkey’s main airport will see an extra 7,500 additional seats. While Qatar Airways has the same number of flights, seven in ten will see the B777-300ER, a vast increase from less than one in five in 2019.

Of course, the picture isn’t so rosy for most airports, but at least they’re served, even if it is less often or by a smaller aircraft. Helsinki is the most affected, with capacity at just 15% of what it was. The number of flights has reduced from twice-daily to four-weekly and from all-widebody to A320-only. However, it is still served, unlike Fifteen airports that won’t welcome the airline.

Qatar Airways A350
Although deployment of the 327-seat and premium-heavy A350-1000 to Europe has reduced, it’ll be used to Frankfurt in November. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

15 routes aren’t operating

Adana, Birmingham, Cardiff, Geneva, Gothenburg, Izmir, Lisbon, London Gatwick, Malta, Nice, Pisa, Sarajevo, Skopje, Thessaloniki, and Venice were all served in November 2019 but won’t be next month.

Three of these 15 – Geneva, London Gatwick, Venice – are bookable from March 27th, the start of the aviation summer season. Meanwhile, Adana will be back from June 1st and Izmir from June 2nd. It isn’t clear whether or when the others will return, but most probably will in time.

Qatar Gatwick
Qatar Airways relaunched Doha-Gatwick in May 2018. Photo: Gatwick Airport.

Gatwick stands out

Qatar Airways launched Gatwick in November 2004 and it ended in 2011. It returned in 2018 and performed “spectacularly well,” according to the airline’s UK and Ireland Country Manager. Due to COVID, it was postponed briefly in 2020, resumed in December that year, and was postponed again in early 2021.

It’ll now relaunch in 2022. In the meantime, British Airways will begin Doha to Gatwick on December 8th and codeshare and interline with Qatar Airways, a fellow oneworld member. Next year, the pair will operate the route side-by-side from Gatwick.

What are your views of the carrier’s November network? Let us know in the comments.