Qatar Airways Aims to be Among Top Global Airlines
Qatar Airways is now positioned to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic "extremely strong," and has set its sights to emerge as one of the top airlines in the world post-pandemic, Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, H E Akbar Al Baker said yesterday.
Image - Kevan James
Addressing a webinar organised by the US Chamber’s US-Qatar Business Program, Al Baker said that the airline, which expects to receive its first three Boeing 777X passenger jets in 2023, has already surpassed the number of destinations in its pre-COVID US network. After launching flights to Seattle and San Francisco recently, Qatar Airways will resume its flights to Atlanta in June, bringing its US network reach to 12 destinations. Qatar’s national carrier plans to expand its global weekly flights to over 140 destinations during the summer.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive,
H E Akbar Al Baker
“Qatar Airways established itself very strongly as an airline that is completely available to passengers even during the most difficult time. We were the only international carrier that kept on launching new destinations during the pandemic, when others shut their network. As the largest airline flying consistently throughout the pandemic, we have accumulated unrivalled experience of how to safely and reliably carry passengers during this uncertain times. We are now positioned as an airline to come out of this pandemic extremely strong. And the potential for our growth is huge,” said Al Baker, reiterating Qatar Airways’ award as the first and only airline in the Middle East to receive a Skytrax 5-Star COVID-19 Airline Safety Rating.
Al Baker went on to stress that the resumption of air travel is a vital prerequisite to global economic recovery, and advised the harmonisation of passenger testing protocols as a key restoration of public confidence and effective recovery of the air transport sector.
He said the airline, which yesterday launched the world’s first fully COVID-19 vaccinated flight, plans to have all its 37,000 employees vaccinated by month-end. As part of its corporate social responsibility, the airline has also paid over $1.65bn refunds between March 2020 and August 2020, said Al Baker.
He went on to agree with the latest IATA report, which cited that deep industry losses will continue in 2021, while global passenger traffic revenue passenger kilometre (RPK) will not return to pre-COVID-19 levels until 2024, a year later than previously projected. However, figures in the IATA report, which expects passenger numbers to rise by 62 percent in 2021 from the depressed 2020 base, were still over optimistic, he added.
“We need to get borders safely reopened without quarantine. And with airlines expected to bleed cash until the fourth quarter of 2021, there is no time to lose. Today, more than ever, the aviation industry continues to show great levels of resilience in the face of the current adversity and disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. I remain positive as the industry continues to work towards the restart of international transport and the recovery from the impact of COVID-19 on a coordinated global basis,” said Al Baker.
Boeing 777 A7-BAE
During the event, Al Baker reiterated Qatar Airways’ commitment as a member of One World Alliance in achieving net zero emissions goal by 2050. “Qatar Airways operates the most modern and fuel efficient fleet amongst legacy carriers. I would like to reiterate our position of the utmost importance on the environment and climate change, which is shared responsibility between airlines, manufacturers, and regulators in order to reach a common goal of decarbonisation of the industry,” he said.
He went on to highlight the airline’s constant efforts to push engine manufacturers, including its US-based partner GE, for technological improvements to address carbon emissions. “As an airline keeping a close watch on emissions, we always are looking for improvements, and I would also recommend that GE get into future technology engine sooner than later, because we have all, through IATA, committed for a carbon neutral growth in 2050. When you look at how long things start to develop, 2050 is not very far away,” Al Baker added.
Speaking about commercial relations with the US, Al Baker said Qatar Airways currently sources almost 51 percent of its fleet from Boeing passenger and freighter aircraft with an estimated value of over $40bn. The airline is also interested to look into the new 777X freighter.
“Our aircraft engine purchases have been and continue to heavily support the creation of sustainability in jobs in the US through American manufacturing companies and many other US freight suppliers, including a lot of manufacturers that have continuously supplied products and services to Hamad International Airport (HIA),” he said.
Boeing 787 A7-BCI
During the event, Al Baker added that the HIA is very advanced in its expansion to cater to the huge rush of passengers and visitors during the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022. “The expansion is also in the Western side of the runway, which will hugely increase additional aircraft parking spaces. And in order to cater to a huge influx of chartered flights in already a busy scheduled airline airport, we have started work to renovate and reactivate the old airport. Will have a huge capacity increase to efficiently and smoothly connect all passengers coming to watch the Fifa games in 2022,” added Al Baker.
Also speaking during the event, Ambassador Greta Holtz, Charge d’ Affairs at the US Embassy in Qatar, said: “Our commercial ties with Qatar have greatly deepened in the recent years. I see this bond continue to strengthen as world class US companies stand ready to partner with Qatar in delivering the FIFA World Cup 2022, and achieving its ambitious goals outlined in Qatar National Vision 2030. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted the global aviation, travel and tourism, and hospitality sectors. Qatar Airways has done an amazing, commendable job of continuing its passenger and cargo service in the wake of the pandemic, assisting thousands of Americans in returning home and serving as a vital logistics provider for trade. Today’s event provides an opportunity to explore ways together with you in which we can continue to build both the US and Qatari economies by supporting two-way travel and tourism”.
© Lani Rose R Dizon / The Peninsula
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