Now that Qatar Airways is back in Atlanta, the carrier is at its strongest position in the United States. Serving 12 gateways to the US and with three major partners, the airline has brought back all of its network and is making progress on bringing back its frequencies and capacity between the US and Qatar. This sets the airline up well in the coming years as the recovery continues. To understand more about the airline’s large presence in the US, Simple Flying spoke with Eric Odone, Senior Vice President of the Americas at Qatar Airways.
Qatar Airways is flying an extensive US network
Upbeat after resuming flights to Atlanta, Qatar Airways is flying more capacity and to more destinations in the US than it was before the crisis hit. The airline is flying to 12 gateways:
- Los Angeles
- New York
- San Francisco
- Washington D.C.
San Francisco and Seattle were new additions to the airline’s network during the crisis.
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While the airline has a significant breadth of destinations, it is now looking at providing depth of schedules as it repairs. As Mr. Odone explained:
“We are actually increasing capacity out of Boston, out of Philly, out of San Francisco, Seattle, and Miami as of July. So we are potentially, I would say, in the next phase, which is now basically strengthening our position in all of those gateways by adding capacity.”
Essential partnerships and codeshares
As Mr. Odone explained, Qatar Airways is very pleased with its partnerships in the United States:
“The partnerships have been essential during the pandemic, because there was a stage where we only operated out of Chicago and Dallas. But still, people could actually travel from all over the USA via those two points on to the destination they wanted to go to. Of course, as our relationship with American developed, with the codeshares, and Alaska, now, and JetBlue has been very strong even before the pandemic. So, it’s true that we have an amazing coverage of the entire country, through those 12 gateways and the various catchment areas around them.”
This does not preclude the airline from further expansion in the United States, as Mr. Odone stated even further:
“However, there is still room for expansion…We will put more flights now out of Dallas and Chicago than we used to before the pandemic, for example. We only had daily flights now we’ve got 10 frequencies [per week]. So taking advantage of the partnerships, has been really our key strategy and very successful.”
Not dependent on the return of business travel
Qatar Airways has been successful in growing frequencies to the United States and adding new gateways because of pent-up demand. Even in 2020, the airline saw incredible pent-up demand when it started to come back to the US a year ago.
“What we’ve seen is when we started to return with flights in June, in fact, exactly a year ago, we actually saw that there was some pent-up demand and VFR travel that sort of travel was actually very strong. But also, I mean, there was a state where we had 70 to 75% market share to the Maldives, for example. So there were also people who wanted to travel for pleasure. All that I think created a balance.”
Business travelers largely help with yields. Airlines rely on those passengers to book the higher fare seats at the front of the aircraft. Nevertheless, despite business travel continuing to remain down, the airline is still seeing some impressive loads:
“Business travel, generally, is a way of increasing the yield more than the volume itself. The flights are not as full as they used to be but they are full enough for us to continue to grow and develop. So, of course, when the business traveler travels again, then it will definitely improve the margin and the yield factor. Our flight today, for example, is operating with a 75% load factor, so it can still be pretty full without the same volume of business travel as we had before.”
The flight he referenced was Qatar Airways’ return to Atlanta. Nonstop to Doha, passengers could connect to points in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. The mix of travelers on the route mostly seemed to be leisure travelers heading out with family.
Ultimately, with leisure travel coming back strong, Qatar Airways is bringing back more of its flights and frequencies to the United States. The airline had plenty of potential pre-crisis, and it is now starting to act on that potential as other carriers hold back.
Are you glad to see Qatar Airways in a stronger US position? Let us know in the comments!