Qatar Airways is now Australia's most popular international airline

Coronavirus restrictions turn travel patterns topsy-turvy.

By David Flynn, June 16 2020
Qatar Airways is now Australia's most popular international airline

With most flights grounded and most Australians unable to leave the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, the leaderboard for the country's most popular international airline has been given a good shake-up with Qatar Airways surging to top spot.

The Gulf airline and Qantas partner carried 30,907 passengers across April 2020, according to the latest statistics released by the federal government's Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE).

This was almost ten times the number of travellers ferried into and out of Australia by runners-up Air New Zealand (3,367) and United Airlines (3,335), with ANA close behind then at 3,004.

"An unprecedented challenge needs an unprecedented response and Qatar Airways worked tirelessly to continue providing repatriation options to stranded passengers," said Qatar Airways Group CEO, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker.

"While many airlines suspended operations, we continued to maintain a robust schedule and network," with flights to Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and for the first time Brisbane connecting to some 30 global destinations.

Qantas' overseas schedule was limited to an assortment of repatriation flights for a tally of just 2,028 passengers, according to BITRE, while Virgin Australia carried just 521 passengers on its flights to and from Hong Kong and Los Angeles.

More signs of the strange new travel landscape: globe-striding colossus Emirates carried nobody into or out of Australia across April, due to the near-total closure of its Dubai hub, while neighbour Etihad reported just 292 passengers.

Those numbers may change for the better now that the UAE has reopened its airports to transit passengers, which form the majority of both airlines' business.

Similar transit bans and national lockdowns hammered Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines, which counted 1,138 and 707 passengers respectively.

By way of comparison, April 2019 – when the biggest health worry on the horizon was a dose of the winter flu – saw Qantas carry 625,856 passengers on its international network, with Singapore Airlines at a solid place with 294,765 passengers, closely followed by Air New Zealand (241, 214) and Emirates (229,496).

Qatar Airways' April 2019 tally was 106,091, or three times what it carried in April 2020.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


Can someone here who has got the exemption and left to the US please tell me the current process at the airport?

Where do they check your exemption? What happens with checking visa's/reason for visit etc. now?

Thank you


02 May 2016

Total posts 61

I left Sydney around 6 weeks ago, there is only 1 door open to access the international terminal and the Border Force officers are right there. If you are a foreign national you are checked and waved through, if Australian citizen (as I am) you are pulled aside and questioned as to why you're leaving. In my case I was unable to apply online as I'm normally US resident (Green Card), after 10-15 mins of questioning and checks by someone over the back on a laptop they finally issued me the exemption notice. You can't check in without the exemption and you can't pass through immigration without it.


03 May 2013

Total posts 657

Amazingly popular in the air - absolutely! .....on the ground however, a basket case; from arrogance at check-in(esp at SYD), contact center 'assistance', to the DOH ground staff mafia.


19 Sep 2013

Total posts 185

I must disagree. A large group of us had to recently all our flights to UK and Europe. Those that were flying with Qatar had the easiest, no-hassle and most satisfying experience of receiving either a voucher or a full refund. After this, all of us agree that we will definitely fly with Qatar again.

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