Snapshot: A Day In The Life Of Qatar Airways Operations

Qatar Airways is the world’s 10th-largest international airline on July 29th, 2021, if measured in total movements. And it is the largest located in Asia-Pacific. We explore the carrier’s operation on this specific day and find that 87% of its movements are by widebodies.

Qatar Airways Airbus A350-1041 A7-ANQ
North America accounts for 10% of Qatar Airways’ total flights. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Qatar Airways has 324 movements (departures and arrives combined) to 112 destinations from its Doha hub today, July 29th, 2021. These 324 movements generate most 89,000 seats for an average of about 275 seats per flight, based on analyzing schedules information from OAG.

The high seats per flight is clearly from widebodies flying a significant 87% of its all seats on this day, with the B777-300ER alone responsible for nearly half. The B787-8, A350-900, A350-1000, B777-200LR, and B787-9 – in that order – follow in the most-used list.

Qatar A350
On this July day, Male, Maldives, has the most flights. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Widebodies pushing up seats per flight

The impact of such strong use of widebodies can be seen geographically, as illustrated in the following figure. Given COVID, Qatar Airways uses them more than ever to offset lower frequencies due to ongoing restrictions and cargo-carrying capability.

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This is seen within the Middle East. While this region now has 263 seats per flight, that’s up from fewer than 200 in July 2019. But it isn’t just about widebodies, with the following table indicating that the use of narrowbodies to Africa and Europe is influenced by narrowbodies. Indeed, narrowbodies are important for growing Qatar Airways’ network, especially to secondary destinations and growing connectivity.

 Movements (departures/arrivals)SeatsSeats per flight
Europe8821,866248
Asia-Pacific7924,525310
Middle East6717,649263
Africa5413,317247
North America3410,686314
South America2654327
32488,697262

Qatar Airways’ narrowbodies

Unlike Emirates, Qatar Airways itself uses narrowbodies; these have partly enabled strong growth into smaller markets across Central/Eastern Europe (CEE) and parts of Africa and Asia. Narrowbodies enable flexibility, the ability to right-size capacity to demand, and the ability to build up a thinner route. No wonder that Emirates is increasingly using partner flydubai for narrowbody capability.

Before COVID was a thing, Qatar Airways had planned two routes to Kazakstan (Almaty and Nur-Sultan) using A320s. At 2,732, Doha to Helsinki is now the carrier’s longest narrowbody route, with the previous record-holder – Yangon, Myanmar (2,918 miles) – no more.

Qatar A320
Narrowbodies have 13% of the movements across the A320 and A321. Photo: Sergey Korovkin via Wikimedia.

Where in the world?

On this July day, Europe and Asia-Pacific have the most movements, at 27% and 24% respectively. CEE now accounts for three in ten flights to/from Europe, aided by the use of narrowbodies. In Asia-Pacific, meanwhile, the South accounts for just over half of the movements.

Qatar Airways’ Africa network now has 17% of the total, up from 9% in 2019. While cuts from coronavirus elsewhere have pushed up this number, it is also from the airline’s focus on the continent. Abidjan, Abuja, Accra, and Luanda have all started since 2020, while Cairo and Alexandria have resumed and Lusaka and Harare are coming in August. Kinshasa, Hargeisa, and Juba are all likely, while Gaborone and Windhoek will probably return.

Qatar B777-200LR
Some 13 airports in North America are served on this day. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Surfing the waves

In hub terms, a wave comprises one bank of arrivals and one bank of departures. Hubs are crucial as they drive connectivity, passengers, competitiveness, market share, and everything else. Qatar Airways has three very distinct waves, as shown below, each similar in terms of movements. In normal times these waves would be even more identical.

  • 22:00-03:00: 105 movements
  • 05:00-09:00: 105
  • 16:00-21:00: 80
Qatar Airways Doha hub
This is how the airline’s movements are timed at its Doha hub on July 29th, 2021. Image: OAG.

As Qatar Airways has grown, its waves have inevitably become more omnidirectional, so flights arriving from Europe aren’t then simply going to Asia-Pacific. This further helps to increase connections and convenience.

Its late evening/very early morning bank of arrivals is especially important from Europe and Asia-Pacific, which then primarily feed Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa.

The author’s most recent flights with the airline were from Adelaide to Doha and back to Heathrow. Do you have any trips planned with the airline? Let us know in the comments.

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