Why Qatar Airways Is Winning In North America

Qatar Airways has 13 non-stop routes to North America. The region is one of the few growth areas for the airline, helped by services to Seattle and San Francisco starting in recent months. Crucial for Qatar Airways is its well-oiled Doha hub, with nearly 90% of its US/Canada passengers connecting over it – but where are they going?

Qatar Airways A350
Qatar Airways has been growing its presence in North America. Its expanded codeshare with JetBlue, along with Alaska Airlines joining oneworld, will both help it to develop further. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

North America is a growing market for Qatar Airways, with a record 2.8 million seats this year despite coronavirus, up by 3% over 2019 and more than double the volume in 2014. Of course, this says nothing of fares, passengers, or loads, but it does reflect its commitment to the region. This will be boosted even further given the expanded codeshare partnership with JetBlue, announced today.

Qatar Airways A350-1000
Los Angeles joined the airline’s network in 2016. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

13 routes to North America

Qatar Airways now has 13 non-stop routes from Doha to North America, up by two versus 2019. Seattle was added earlier in 2021, benefiting from Alaska Airlines joining oneworld and the feed available to fellow member Qatar Airways over the Washington state airport. San Francisco, meanwhile, was inaugurated by Qatar Airways in late 2020.

Qatar Airways to North America
Qatar Airways’ network comprised Houston, Montreal, New York JFK, and Washington in 2011. Note that the number of routes in 2020 doesn’t include limited-time service to Toronto and Vancouver that were operated because of the pandemic. Source: OAG Schedules Analyzer.

JFK still #1, but Boston no longer #2

New York JFK retains the crown, as expected, followed by Chicago, Dallas, Washington, and Los Angeles. It may be surprising that Boston was Qatar Airways’ second-densest North America route in 2019, helped by then being operated exclusively by the B777-300ER. However, it has now slipped to 11th, with just a three-weekly offering using the A350-900. This is just temporary and will no doubt benefit from the closer partnership with JetBlue.

Qatar Airways to North America
The carrier’s reasonably new codeshare agreement with Air Canada adds a 14th non-stop destination in the form of Toronto (shown in blue). This began in late 2020 and is an important development given Qatar and the UAE’s stringent bilateral agreement. Toronto arrives/departs Doha at the same rough times as Qatar Airways’ own services, so fully benefiting from connections. Image: GCMap.

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88% load factor to North America

Qatar Airways’ had an estimated 88% seat load factor to/from North America in 2019, analyzing OAG data reveals. Nearly 2.4 million passengers were carried in all, with approximately nine in ten connecting over Doha to/from other destinations.

This includes ‘online’ connections, such as Los Angeles via Doha to Delhi, and what are known as ‘bridging’ passengers. These are travelers flying from, say, Detroit to New York JFK to Doha and finally to Dhaka. The latter saw almost half a million passengers.

Crucial in all of this is the Middle East carrier’s Doha hub, which is very much coordinated for connectivity, as shown below.


Qatar Airways' Doha hub
Here are Qatar Airways’ arrivals and departures in a mid-July week in 2021. Source: OAG.

12 flights to North America in 50 minutes

On a randomly chosen day, in this case, July 15th, Qatar Airways will have 13 departures to North America, plus one operated by Air Canada. 12 flights will depart between 07:45 and 08:35. That same day, the airline will have 12 arrivals, which will be joined by one from the Canadian full-service carrier.

Departure from Doha to…Departure time from DohaArrival into Doha from…Arrival time into Doha
Chicago01:10Toronto (Air Canada)16:00
Los Angeles07:50New York JFK16:25
San Francisco08:05San Francisco17:10
New York JFK08:15Chicago17:20
Toronto (Air Canada)08:25Los Angeles17:35
Washington08:35New York JFK20:30
New York JFK14:45

Where in the world?

Not surprisingly, most people – over half – connected between the US/Canada and South Asia in 2019, booking data obtained via OAG Traffic Analyser reveals. This region had nearly four times as many passengers as both number-two Southeast Asia and number-three the wider Middle East.

On a country basis, India was, of course, overwhelmingly the largest over Doha, followed by Pakistan, Iran, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Kuwait, and Sri Lanka completed the top-10.

Qatar Airways Doha hub
Nearly 90% of Qatar Airways’ passengers connected over Doha. Photo: Getty Images.

Dhaka – JFK #1

Dhaka to New York JFK was Qatar Airways’ top O&D, as shown below, but the number of passengers carried wasn’t far ahead of those from Los Angeles to Yerevan:

  1. Dhaka – New York JFK
  2. Los Angeles – Yerevan
  3. Manila – Miami
  4. Kathmandu – New York JFK
  5. Los Angeles – Tehran
  6. Atlanta – Hyderabad
  7. Atlanta – Ahmedabad
  8. Houston – Karachi
  9. Atlanta – Mumbai
  10. Montreal – Tehran
  11. Tehran – Washington
  12. Houston – Mumbai
  13. Dallas – Hyderabad
  14. Bangalore – Dallas
  15. Lahore – New York JFK

Los Angeles to Yerevan may seem an unusual market, but Greater LA has a huge Armenian population, perhaps nearly half of the US total. Over 100,000 passengers flew the route in 2019, and Qatar Airways had about a one-quarter share, well behind Aeroflot.

What surprises you most about Qatar Airways’ North America operations? Comment below!