Qatar Airways is planning for a ramp-up of operations and is looking at around 80 destinations by the end of June. However, the airline’s CEO Akbar al-Baker believes that travel demand will remain stunted for at least three years, and as such, is planning to operate a reduced fleet. In a telephone interview, he said that as many as 25% of the airline’s aircraft would remain grounded, and some could even be returned to lessors.
It will take a miracle
Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar al-Baker has said today that he doesn’t expect to see the travel industry back to 2019 levels for around two to three years. Speaking in a telephone interview with Reuters, al-Baker said that he didn’t foresee the airline returning to a full network of flights before 2023, “unless a miracle” were to happen in the next 12 months, telling the publication,
“I think I would be very surprised if things will happen before 2023/2024.”
With this in mind, the airline plans to reduce its fleet size. Qatar has been one of the few airlines to maintain a relatively full flight schedule during the crisis so far, with 75% of its fleet still operational. That’s a stark difference from some carriers who have grounded 90% of more of their planes. Al-Baker says this is down to increased cargo operations and repatriation flights.
However, it’s likely the fleet will end up being a little bit smaller overall. Reuters reports that the airline is planning to keep 25% of its fleet grounded longer term, and that some aircraft could also be returned to lessors.
Al-Baker believes that travel demand has been indefinitely affected by the changes the world has gone through. He said that many business travelers may never return to the skies, having now become more accustomed to remote working.
Rebuilding its network
Although Qatar is looking to become a slightly smaller airline, for the time being, that hasn’t stopped the carrier from planning a restart to operations. It said last week that it was planning to ramp up services to 52 destinations by the beginning of June, and it seems that’s just the start.
From its current network of around 30 destinations, the chief executive has said today that it plans to triple this coverage, targeting as many as 80 destinations by the end of June. Al-Baker thinks this is feasible, and he expected a 50 – 60% load factor on flights over the coming weeks. He told Reuters,
“There are still a lot of people stranded around the world, (and) people who want to go and visit their loved ones.”
Qatar has operated an impressive number of repatriation flights, and has been ramping up cargo operations too. Sadly, this hasn’t avoided a substantial number of job losses in the business. However, al-Baker said today that the airline hopes to re-hire many of these workers as countries around the world begin lifting travel bans.
A thank you to healthcare workers
In a bid to thank the healthcare workers who are striving to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, Qatar Airways is giving away 100,000 tickets to frontline professionals. The airline will run the giveaway from tomorrow, 12th May, until midnight on the 18th (Doha time).
Lucky recipients will get a pair of economy class return tickets to any destination in the Qatar Airways network. Health professionals from all over the world are invited to apply to the promotion on the Qatar Airways website.