Qatar Airways CEO Sees Ultra Long Haul Flying As A Tiny Market

Ultra long-haul flying is an exciting prospect that has seen great progress in recent years, with the likes of Singapore Airlines breaking ground in this scene. However, Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker is not too fazed by this market. Speaking in an exclusive interview with Simple Flying, the executive has shared that he feels opportunities in this segment are limited.

Qatar Airways Airbus A350-1041 A7-ANG
Qatar Airways previously opted for the A350-1000 rather than the -900ULR. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

No disruption

A notable program that has got the aviation industry excited is Project Sunrise. Here, Qantas is planning to provide commercial nonstop flights from the east coast of Australia to London, Paris, and New York.

The Australian operator would follow on from Singapore Airlines’ achievements in this field. The flag carrier of Singapore offers services to far regions from its hub in the city-state. Regardless of the potential here, Al Baker believes that there is only so much that can be achieved.

“It has a very limited market. Singapore Airlines launched the longest flights from Singapore. It was to the East Coast of the US from Singapore. It didn’t dilute or collapse the market from Singapore to the same destination by other airlines. As a matter of fact, the load factors remained very high, including the demand to Qatar Airways to fly passengers to the East Coast via our hub,” Al Baker told Simple Flying.

“People want to get out to relax to walk to stretch before they go back into an airplane on these ultra-long-haul flights. It’s a limited market. I’m not saying that there is not a market at all, but the volume is so little that it wouldn’t affect.”

Qatar Airways Boeing 777-2DZ(LR) A7-BBF
Qatar Airways is proud of its connections. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Great adventures

Singapore Airlines Flights SQ21 and SQ22 were two of the longest regularly scheduled nonstop flights around the world. These were services between Singapore Changi and Newark. Then, in October 2018, the airline landed the world’s longest flight at Newark from Changi with its Airbus A350-900ULR, with a flight duration was 17 hours 52 minutes

Singapore Airlines Airbus A350 Getty
Singapore Airlines holds seven Airbus A350-900ULR units in its fleet. Photo: Getty Images

Singapore, like Doha, is a hotspot for connections across the globe. However, Al Baker isn’t as keen on ultra-long-haul routes as its counterpart.

Nonetheless, Qatar Airways is no stranger to long distances. For instance, in February 2017, it launched a nonstop flight between Doha and Auckland, covering 14,535 km with its Boeing 777 aircraft.

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All about location

Altogether, Qatar Airways is in a great position where it can reach several popular destinations without having to be ambitious with ultra-long-haul routes. The carrier has proven itself as a master of connecting passengers across the continents, even in trying times such as the pandemic. Therefore, its leadership is not too worried about ultra-long-haul operations being launched by its competitors.

What are your thoughts about the ultra-long-haul flying market? Do you agree with Akbar Al Baker’s sentiments about this field? Let us know what you think of the comments and the prospects in the comment section.