Qatar Airways announced its upcoming summer schedule today and, thankfully, it looks nothing like the one from 2020. The Gulf-carrier, which never stopped flying during the pandemic, will be back with 1,200 weekly flights to over 140 destinations by the peak of IATA’s summer season.
Leading the recovery
While nothing is predictable in the era of COVID, it would seem as if many airlines are making plans for a (relatively) busy summer. Full of optimism for the months to come, Qatar says it will operate over 1,200 weekly frequencies. These will go to over 140 destinations – 23 in Africa, 14 in the Americas, 43 in the Asia-Pacific region, 43 in Europe, and 19 in the Middle East.
“We are proud to lead the recovery of international aviation, implementing the highest standards of bio-safety and hygiene and investing in the latest innovations to simplify travel and restore passenger confidence during the most challenging period in aviation’s history,” Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said in a statement.
“We also continue to offer the largest international network, including launching seven new destinations, to provide the connectivity our passengers and cargo customers need,” Mr Al Baker continued.
Quarantine-free holiday packages
Qatar has indeed already reinforced its position as a global leader in the rebound of air travel. In March, the airline will have operated 2.6 billion available seat kilometers. The airline is already back to 70% capacity of its pre-COVID schedule, operating over 1,000 flights per week to 130 destinations.
With the next phase in ramping up operations, the carrier is betting big on pent-up travel demand for summer. It will return to popular tourist destinations such as Mykonos in Greece, where it intends to send its A320s.
Furthermore, Qatar has struck a deal with the Greek government. Qatari citizens and residents that have been vaccinated against COVID will be allowed to forego quarantine with special holiday packages. The airline hopes that more countries will follow suit.
We are delighted to announce that Qatar Airways Holidays has launched quarantine-free holiday packages to Athens and Mykonos. Qatari citizens and residents who have completed the COVID-19 vaccination can safely travel to Greece for the summer holiday👇🏻https://t.co/Q6uwUrEeiZ pic.twitter.com/Rcb6cBKOXw
— Qatar Airways (@qatarairways) March 28, 2021
“As the global vaccine rollout begins to gather pace, we look forward to a gradual easing of entry restrictions throughout 2021 and welcoming back our millions of passengers on board the World’s Best Airline,” Mr Al Baker further stated.
Varying optimism for summer 2021
Qatar Airways is not the only airline hoping pent-up travel demand will cause a surge in bookings once vaccinations are sufficiently underway. State-side, JetBlue is recalling cabin crew. United and Delta have both increased services to popular holiday destinations. However, whether or not that is prudent remains to be seen, as US domestic capacity may well be over-reaching.
Closer to Qatar’s home-base, Middle Eastern budget airline Air Arabia is also optimistic about the summer season, based on the growing number of inoculations. Meanwhile, European carriers, with the exception of low-cost carrier Ryanair, remain cautious of the unfolding situation.
What do you think of the upcoming summer season? Is it too soon to be making any calls, or will vaccinations truly be the key to reopening quarantine-free international travel? Tell us in the comment section below.