While many international airlines are cutting back their flights, and more travellers find themselves stranded by axed routes, closed borders and transit bans, Qatar Airways is both increasing flights and ramping up the number of Airbus A380s across several key routes.
The Oneworld member is clearly seeing, and seizing, an opportunity.
With every day, there seems to be fewer ways for people to get home – at a time when home is where almost everyone wants to be – and it’s become the new mission of Qatar Airways, with over 70 destinations linked via its hub at Doha's Hamad International Airport, which remains open to passengers in transit.
“It’s a great test of a company’s agility and flexibility right now, because every time you’ve got a plan, the world changes when you wake up the next morning,” reflects Simon Talling-Smith, Qatar Airways’ Chief Commercial Officer.
“But it’s clear there is such a very strong desire amongst people all over the world to get home, so that is what we are wholly focused on right now – how can we get people home from right around the world.”
Qatar Airways has seen a steady growth in bookings “all the way thought the week”, Talling-Smith says tells Executive Traveller.
“Yes, different airlines around the world have reduced or stopped flying, but at the same time you’re also seeing governments suggesting new travel guidelines and advising citizens to come home, and I think on top of that you’ve just got this increasing sense of longing for home because people feel safe at home.”
This unexpected increase in a market has seen Qatar Airways revisit plans drawn up only last week.
Then, the airline planned to park most of its ten Airbus A380s: the superjumbos were simply too big for a suddenly smaller base of customers.
Now the Airbus A380s are being pressed into action on key routes, such as London and Frankfurt. “I don’t think any of us imagined a week ago that we’d be putting the A380s back in the air!” Talling-Smith grins, despite himself, in disbelief at the dizzying rate of change.
“For example, we’ve reintroduced the third daily flight to Paris over the last few days, and reinstated the A380, because we’ve had very very strong demand from French nationals returning from all over Asia-Pacific.”
London’s Heathrow Airport, which in April was being dialled back from six daily flights to just two, will see between three and four flights a day across April – again, with an Airbus A380 on duty.
"We’re changing things almost by the day, but across the board we are increasing the amount of flying we are doing, with both larger aircraft and more frequencies and some more destinations,” Talling-Smith says.
Qatar Airways' current worldwide network
Locally, Qatar Airways will continue flying to Sydney, Melbourne and Perth throughout April and May – with the Airbus A380 returning to Perth as of April 1, albeit running four days a week instead of the previous daily frequency. Auckland still sees a daily Boeing 777-200LR.
(Adelaide's daily Doha service, cancelled last week, is expected to return on June 1, with an Airbus A350-1000 slated five days a week.)
Popular European destinations which still see Qatar Airways flights include Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Dublin, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Helsinki, Istanbul, London, Munich, Paris, Rome Vienna and Zurich.
Also remaining on Qatar's network map in the Americas: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas Fort Worth, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Montreal, São Paulo and Washington DC.
There are a half-dozen destinations in Africa, among them Cape Town and Johannesburg, and twenty more across Asia.
A regularly-updated list of all cities to which Qatar Airways flies is available at qatarairways.com.