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Soaring High – Qatar Airways

Soaring High – Qatar Airways

Anne Kurian
  • In an exclusive chat with The Luxury Bulletin, Bennet Stephens, Qatar Airways’ Vice President Sales for Gulf, Middle East, Levant and Caucasus region talks about how the pathbreaking airline has been right at the top its game even during the pandemic

What has Qatar Airways planned for the rest of 2020? 

Qatar Airways now operates over 700 weekly flights to more than 100 destinations, providing more flexible travel options to more global destinations than any other airline. 

Looking ahead, the airline’s resilience and commitment to providing connectivity has also seen it launch several new destinations like Brisbane since the start of the pandemic in addition to the resumptions of its services to a number of destinations.

Our focus throughout the rebuild of our network is not only on restarting destinations but also operating as many frequencies as possible to provide our passengers the flexibility to travel when they want.

Furthermore, Qatar Airways has also announced its winter schedule in line with passenger and cargo demand and the continued relaxation of entry restrictions around the world. 

By the end of 2020, the airline plans to expand its network to more than 125 destinations including 20 in Africa, 11 in the Americas, 41 in Asia-Pacific, 38 in Europe and 15 in Middle East. Many cities will be served with a strong schedule with daily or more frequencies.

As the airline’s network rebuild continues, it will remain focused on providing seamless, safe and reliable connectivity to its millions of passengers and ensuring the airline continues to earn the trust of passengers every time they choose to fly with Qatar Airways.

Are there any new routes planned by QR? Especially to Europe and USA?

As indicated earlier, by the end of 2020, Qatar Airways’ plans to rebuild its network to more 125 destinations, including:


Accra (ACC), Addis Ababa (ADD), Algiers (ALG), Cape Town (CPT), Casablanca (CMN), Dar Es Salaam (DAR), Djibouti (JIB), Durban (DUR), Entebbe (EBB), Johannesburg (JNB), Kigali (KGL), Kilimanjaro (JRO), Lagos (LOS), Luanda (LAD), Maputo (MPM),  Mogadishu (MGQ), Nairobi (NBO), Seychelles (SEZ), Tunis (TUN), Zanzibar (ZNZ)


Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Montreal (YUL), New York (JFK), Philadelphia (PHL), San Francisco (SFO), Sao Paulo (GRU), Washington D.C. (IAD)


Ahmedabad (AMD), Adelaide (ADL), Amritsar (ATQ), Auckland (AKL),Bangalore (BLR), Bangkok (BKK), Brisbane (BNE), Calicut (CCJ), Cebu (CEB), Chennai (MAA), Clark (CRK), Colombo (CMB), Dhaka (DAC), Guangzhou (CAN), Hanoi (HAN), Hong Kong (HKG), Ho Chi Minh City (SGN), Goa (GOI), Hyderabad (HYD), Islamabad (ISB), Jakarta (CGK), Karachi (KHI), Kathmandu (KTM), Kochi (COK), Kolkata (CCU), Kuala Lumpur (KUL), Lahore (LHE), Male (MLE), Manila (MNL), Melbourne (MEL), Mumbai (BOM), Nagpur (NAG), New Delhi (DEL), Perth (PER), Peshawar (PEW), Phuket (HKT), Seoul (ICN), Singapore (SIN), Sydney (SYD), Tokyo Narita (NRT), Trivandrum (TRV)


Amsterdam (AMS), Ankara (ESB), Athens (ATH), Baku (GYD), Barcelona (BCN), Belgrade (BEG), Berlin (BER/TXL), Brussels (BRU), Bucharest (OTP), Budapest (BUD), Copenhagen (CPH), Dublin (DUB), Edinburgh (EDI), Frankfurt (FRA), Helsinki (HEL), Istanbul (IST), Istanbul Sabiha (SAW), Kiev (KBP), Larnaca (LCA), London (LHR), London (LGW), Madrid (MAD), Manchester (MAN), Milan (MXP), Moscow (DME), Munich (MUC),  Oslo (OSL), Paris (CDG), Prague (PRG), Rome (FCO), Sofia (SOF), Stockholm (ARN), Tbilisi (TBS), Vienna (VIE), Warsaw (WAW), Yerevan (EVN), Zagreb (ZAG), Zurich (ZRH)

Middle East

Amman (AMM), Baghdad (BGW), Basra (BSR), Beirut (BEY), Erbil (EBL), Isfahan (IFN), Kuwait (KWI), Mashhad (MHD), Muscat (MCT), Najaf (NJF), Shiraz (SYZ), Sulaymaniyah (ISU), Tehran (IKA)

Many travellers are apprehensive about flying given the current situation. What steps have QR to ensure that all safety and hygiene requirements are in place? 

As one of the largest and most experienced global airlines throughout the COVID-19 crisis, travelers can rely on Qatar Airways to take them on your next journey safely. We continue to ensure that our safety and hygiene measures are of the highest standard, with new health and safety compliant procedures implemented throughout the customers’ journey, from check in to arrival at their destination.

Qatar Airways became the first global carrier to operate Honeywell’s Ultraviolet (UV) Cabin System, further advancing its hygiene measures onboard. In clinical tests, UV light has been shown to be capable of inactivating various viruses and bacteria when properly applied. 

Qatar Airways further increased its health and safety measures onboard by introducing new personal protective equipment (PPE) for customers and cabin crew. The cabin crew wear a disposable protective gown which is worn over their uniforms, in addition to safety glasses, gloves and a mask.

Face shields are distributed to the passengers at the airport to be worn when boarding and disembarking. Economy Class passengers are required to wear them on board, except when eating or drinking. Business Class passengers are asked to wear them at their own discretion. For aircraft equipped with Qsuite, Qatar Airways’ award-winning business seat, Business Class customers are offered even greater privacy with sliding partitions and fully closing doors, and an option to display a ‘Do Not Disturb (DND)’ indicator if they wish to limit their interactions with cabin crew.

Onboard, all Qatar Airways passengers are provided with a complimentary protective kit. Inside a ziplock pouch, a single-use face mask, large disposable powder-free gloves and an alcohol-based hand sanitiser gel are offered. 

Parents flying with children over two years of age are requested to advise them to keep wearing their PPE throughout the journey. 

Business Class meals are served covered on a tray instead of a table set up, and a cutlery wrap is offered to passengers as an alternative to individual cutlery service, in an effort to minimise contact between crew and passengers. Qatar Airways has also introduced single-use menu cards and sealed refreshing wipes. Economy Class meals and cutlery are served sealed as usual, and menu cards have been temporarily discontinued. All social areas onboard the aircraft have been closed adhering to social distancing measures.

Qatar Airways’ aircraft are regularly disinfected using cleaning products recommended by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the World Health Organization (WHO). 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.

The linen and blankets offered onboard continue to be washed, dried and pressed at microbial lethal temperatures, while its headsets are rigorously sanitised after each flight. These items are then sealed into individual packaging by staff wearing hygienic disposable gloves.

The pandemic has brands and organisations reworking on their policies and strategies to get past the challenges. How has QR worked towards adapting to the effects of the current global situation?

At the onset on the current global situation, Qatar Airways focused on being agile, flexible and bringing in customer centric policies and procedures.  As more and more people relied on Qatar Airways for international travel than any other airline during this crisis , we continued to ensure the safest and most reliable experience for our passengers and resume flights to more destinations over the coming period.

The airline’s strategic investment in a variety of fuel-efficient twin-engine aircraft has enabled it to continue flying, perfectly positioning the carrier to lead the sustainable recovery of international travel and giving the airline the flexibility to maintain and rebuild its network sustainably by operating the right sized aircraft to offer reliable capacity in each market. 

Qatar Airways has paid out over USD $1.4 billion in refunds to almost 600,000 passengers since March, demonstrating its commitment to honouring its obligations to passengers who need to change their plans due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global travel.

In the context of unprecedented numbers of refund requests as airlines and passengers navigate entry restrictions imposed by countries around the world to limit the spread of COVID-19, Qatar Airways has worked hard to process almost all refunds requested since March 2020 (96%). The airline is now processing all new refunds back to the original form of payment in less than 30 days.

To provide peace of mind when booking travel, Qatar Airways has extended its commitment to offering passengers flexible booking options, now available for all tickets issued before 31 December. If passengers need to change their travel plans, they can hold their ticket value for two years, benefit from unlimited date changes, or exchange their ticket for a future travel voucher with 10% extra value. If passengers have had their travel plans impacted by factors outside their control, they can change their destination – within the same continental region for Qatar Airways Privilege Club members or within the same country or a 500 mile radius for non-members, swap their ticket for Qmiles, or refund their ticket with no fees applied.

QR has been quite resilient during these times and have repatriated a large number of people. Please tell us about the modus operandi of handling traffic during this period and what measures were taken to ensure that the operations were smooth?

Qatar Airways continues to lead the recovery of International travel. Since the onset of the pandemic, while many airlines suspended their operations, Qatar Airways’ network has never fallen below 30 destinations with continuous services to five continents.

As the nerve centre of Flight Operations, Qatar Airways’ Integrated Operations Centre (IOC) is responsible for maintaining schedule integrity and ensuring all Qatar Airways flights operate safely and securely. 

One of the fundamental advantages of Qatar Airways’ IOC structure is its ability to adapt and change in response to global events which have the potential to impact operational activities. This was evidenced during the early months of COVID-19 pandemic, where the airline sustained operations and repatriated millions of passengers during this pandemic. 

IOC faced these challenges by relying on its core strength – a dynamic operational model resulting in collaborative and real-time decision-making. This model, along with the resilience of the team, ensured that Qatar Airways’ operations were able to continue in a market where others were grounding all aircraft.

According to the latest IATA data, Qatar Airways has become the largest international carrier between April to July by fulfilling its mission of taking people home. This enabled the airline to accumulate unmatched experience in carrying passengers safely and reliably and uniquely positioned the airline to effectively rebuild its network. 

Qatar Airways flew over 33 billion revenue passenger kilometres taking home over 2.3 million passengers on over 37,000 flights. The airline has also operated more than 400 charter flights across the world enabling it to stay up to date with the latest airport and national health procedures and maintain a finger on the pulse of global passenger flows, in particular in markets where it does not operate regular scheduled flights.

What advice would you give to passengers who are getting ready to resume travel? What are the individual precautions that every passenger needs to adopt?

Passengers traveling with Qatar Airways to any worldwide destination are advised to check the latest information on travel restrictions imposed by some countries, as well as on the visa and passport requirements. All passengers need to take all precautionary needed and advised by WHO

Do you foresee an increase in the demand for First and Business Class seats due to the current situation and passengers wanting to travel worry-free?

While no airline can predict how the market will recover or future travel trends, our unrivaled experience accumulated by becoming the largest international carrier during this crisis as well as our best in its class business seats, uniquely position us to provide the best flexible travel options to more global destinations than any other airline.

Business Class passengers on our flights can enjoy the award-winning Qsuite business class seat (First in Business) with its enhanced privacy, including sliding privacy doors and the option to use a ‘Do Not Disturb (DND)’ indicator. The Qsuite seat layout is a 1-2-1 configuration, providing passengers to the Middle East and beyond with the most spacious, fully private, comfortable and social distanced Business Class product in the sky. The Qsuite is available to more than 30 destinations, including London, Sydney, Singapore and Dallas-Fort Worth.

When can we expect QR to resume operations from Oman? 

Qatar Airways has resumed its services to Oman with two weekly flights from Muscat and another two weekly flights in codeshare with Oman Air, providing seamless connection from Oman to the US, Europe, Africa, and Levant regions. The first service touched down at Muscat International Airport on 1 October 2020.

Passengers travelling from Muscat can now enjoy enhanced connectivity to many key global destinations across the Airline’s expanding network including London, New York, Houston and Montreal via our award-winning hub, Hamad International Airport.

The national carrier of Qatar has been flying to Oman since 2000, when it first began direct services to the Omani capital, Muscat. 

Hamad International Airport has been handling operations quite smoothly during this period. Would you be able to throw light on how HIA’s work progress has been favourable for QR’s successful operations?  

Hamad International Airport (HIA) continues to retain its five-star airport classification since 2017. These achievements are a result of the hard work and determination demonstrated by the airport staff, to make HIA the “world’s fastest growing airport.”

HIA has been ranked the “Third Best Airport in the World,” among 550 airports worldwide, by the SKYTRAX World Airport Awards 2020. Rising from fourth position in 2019 to third in 2020, HIA has been steadily rising in the “World’s Best Airports” rankings since the start of its operations in 2014. In addition, HIA has been voted the “Best Airport in the Middle East” for the sixth year in a row and “Best Staff Service in the Middle East” for the fifth year in a row. 

Sparing no effort in safeguarding its passengers, HIA continues applying the stringiest safety measures. HIA maintain a 1.5 metre physical distancing across all passenger touchpoints around the airport, through floor markings, signage and distanced seating. Furthermore, HIA’s retail and food and beverage outlets encourage contactless and cashless transactions through cards and are considering introducing online or in-app purchases in the future. The airport also conducts regular disinfection of all baggage trolleys and tubs.

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