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Onwards and Upwards

Onwards and Upwards

Anne Kurian
  • Global travel has been on the slow track for more than a year now. Yet, Qatar Airways carried on operations through the crisis and even added eight new destinations in the past 12 months. Ajay Jacob, Qatar Airways Regional Manager Oman, UAE & Caucasus, talks about the airline's plans for summer, on prioritising safety, a special program for students and more

How is 2021 looking for Qatar Airways?

The global pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for the aviation industry. Despite this, Qatar Airways never ceased operations and worked diligently to take people home safely and reliably throughout the crisis. 

As more and more countries have started to relax travel restrictions, the airline has seized on the opportunity and continued to take people to their loved ones or for a much-deserved holiday. Qatar Airways has added eight new destinations in the past 12 months, including San Francisco and Seattle in the U.S., Abuja, Accra, Abidjan and Luanda in Africa, and Brisbane and Cebu in Asia Pacific. 

In preparation for the expected increase in travel during summer, Qatar Airways strengthens its position as the leading international airline connecting Oman with the United States, Europe, Africa, Levant and Asia. The airline is proud to announce that it will expand its services to the United States to more than 100 weekly flights across its 12 gateways. Qatar Airways will operate double daily flights to four U.S. gateways – Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington D.C. and increase flights to Dallas-Fort Worth to 12 flights per week. In addition, Boston, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Seattle all growing to a daily service from Doha.

These increased services include the carrier expanding flights to several key global leisure destinations, including Cape Town, Maldives, Phuket, Seychelles, and Zanzibar, providing more flexible summer holiday travel options.

With more countries opening to tourists and easing restrictions, do you predict people start travelling again?

The border restrictions and uncertainty have stifled the movement of people and contributed to the stay at home fatigue. People want to meet families, return to universities, start work abroad and return to familiar places. 

While health and safety concerns are paramount in travellers’ minds, we have seen an increase in demand for travel in the summer season. That reflects the people confidence in travelling, especially with the vaccination program rollout and heightened hygiene and safety measures implemented across the industry.  

Passengers onboard Qatar Airways can travel with an assurance of a safe and hygienic environment. We are the first airline in the world to operate the Honeywell’s Ultraviolet (U.V.) Cabin System and introduced new personal protective equipment (PPE) for customers and cabin crew. Qatar Airways aircraft are regularly disinfected using cleaning products recommended by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the World Health Organization (WHO). In addition, its aircraft feature the most advanced air filtration systems, equipped with industrial-size HEPA filters that remove 99.97% of viral and bacterial contaminants from re-circulated air, providing the most effective protection against infection.

Cabin crew have received training on how to minimise their chances of contracting or spreading the infection. In addition, they are thermally screened before the departure of flights and after their arrival. Finally, they are quarantined and tested if any colleagues or passengers on a flight show any symptoms of infection or test positive for the virus.

Qatar Airways has become the first global airline in the world to achieve the prestigious 5-Star COVID-19 Airline Safety Rating by the International air transport rating organisation, Skytrax. That follows Hamad International airport’s recent success as the first airport in the Middle East and Asia to be awarded the Skytrax 5-Star COVID-19 Airport Safety Rating. 

Qatar Airways plans to have 150 destinations on its summer itinerary. Is it going as planned? Will the airlines be able to cater to all the destinations?

Qatar Airways continues to rebuild its network, which currently stands at over 140 destinations across the globe. With more frequencies being added to key destinations, Qatar Airways offers unrivalled connectivity to passengers, making it easy for them to change their travel dates or destination as they need to.

Qatar Airways will operate over 1200 weekly flights to more than 140 destinations by the peak of the IATA summer season as a leading global connector. Passengers can enjoy seamless connectivity via the Best Airport in the Middle East, Hamad International Airport with the widest network of destinations. This will include 27 destinations in Africa, 14 in the Americas, 42 in Asia-Pacific, 41 in Europe and 23 in the Middle East, with multiple cities served daily or even more frequently. 

Qatar Airways has recently added Zambia and Zimbabwe to its list of destinations in Africa to start operating in early August, bringing its award-winning service to two important southern African destinations. The new service to Lusaka and onwards to Harare is scheduled to be operated with a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. With these two new routes, the carrier will operate over 100 weekly flights in Africa.

Which destinations Qatar Airways is flying to that travellers from the Gulf would be able to visit over summer?

As mentioned earlier, Qatar Airways is flying to 12 destinations in the United States, several destinations in Europe and in addition to global leisure destinations including Cape Town, Maldives, Phuket, Seychelles, Malaga, Mykonos and Zanzibar, providing more flexible summer holiday travel options.

Qatar Airways has marked a significant milestone in the rebound of international leisure travel with the resumption of four weekly flights to the famed holiday destination of Phuket, Thailand, which started on 1 July. In addition to its 12 weekly Bangkok flights, the airline will operate a total of 16 weekly flights to Thailand, providing seamless connectivity for its passengers travelling from Oman. The route will be served by the airline’s modern and sustainable Boeing 787 Dreamliner, with seating for 22 passengers in Business Class and 232 in Economy Class. 

Furthermore, Málaga returned to Qatar Airways’ route network as Spain began to ease travel restrictions for tourists. Málaga is a firm favourite with holidaymakers worldwide, and fully vaccinated travellers will be able to visit once again whilst enjoying Qatar Airways’ award-winning hospitality and service.

Qatar Airways also resumed regular flights between Doha and Mykonos in May, marking the beginning of a new travel bubble between Qatar and Greece where fully vaccinated holidaymakers no longer need to quarantine on arrival. Qatar Airways has maintained the route to the Greek capital city Athens throughout the pandemic, and the daily service is currently operated by a Boeing 787 aircraft. The Mykonos route is serviced by the airline’s state-of-the-art A320 aircraft with 12 seats in business class and 120 seats in economy class.

Please tell us about the Qatar Airways IATA Travel Pass initiative.

Qatar Airways continues to set the benchmark for innovation, safety, and customer service, becoming the first airline to trial COVID-19 vaccine authentication through the IATA Travel Pass ‘Digital Passport’ Mobile App. As more travellers return to the skies, the airline remains committed to reducing paperwork and providing a more contactless, secure, and seamless travel experience for its passengers.

The trial is being rolled out in phases, beginning initially with cabin crew returning to Doha travelling from Kuwait, London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, and Sydney. Cabin crew upload their Qatar issued COVID-19 vaccination credentials along with their COVID-19 test results to the IATA Travel Pass Mobile App and verify they are eligible to travel. On arrival in Doha, the crew share their vaccination certificate and proceed through immigration at the airport safely and securely.

The airline has introduced special packages for students. Please tell us more about this programme.

For the student community, Qatar Airways has introduced the Students Club Programme powered by the airline’s loyalty programme, Qatar Airways Privilege Club. Members of the Student Club can enjoy benefits such as special fares on flights, extra baggage allowances, the flexibility to change the dates of their flight and complimentary Super Wifi onboard. Students in full- and part-time education aged between 18 and 30 years are eligible to join and can enroll in the programme at  

Will travel ever return to the pre-pandemic era?

The pandemic is not over yet and continues to impact air travel, reducing operations or even stopping operations for many airlines around the world. The travel industry plays a vital role in tourism as well as the economy of any country. Therefore, air travel will always be in demand. While we hope for a progressive resumption of international travel with the advancement of the vaccination campaign worldwide, some uncertainty on the pace of resumption will remain for the foreseeable future, presenting the biggest stumbling block in air travel rebounding. 

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