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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Pre-COVID air travel level unlikely before 2024: Qatar Airways CEO

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The national carrier will also retire half its fleet of A-380’s

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker is confident that air travel will return to pre-COVID levels eventually, however, it is unlikely to happen until 2024. 

“If a new variant of COVID comes out which is … difficult to treat or the spread was more aggressive than what it was then, yes, we would be in trouble and this may extend beyond 2024,’’ Al Baker said in an online conference for CAPA – Centre for Aviation 

The airline boss also dismissed predictions that prices will be on the rise as passengers compete for seats on socially-distanced flights. 

He has also hinted that Qatar Airways will only continue to grow with the lifting of the blockade on Qatar which resulted in the cancelling of flights between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt in 2017. The national carrier was not allowed to fly through the countries’ airspaces either. 

“We will continue because that is our growth strategy so we are not going to walk away from routes we are already operating,’’ he said.

Celebrations in Qatar and Saudi Arabia as families reunite

Meanwhile, Qatar Airways announced it would be retiring five of its 10 planes from its fleet of Airbus A-380’s. The timeline has been moved forward from 2024, which was when the A-380’s were originally scheduled to be retired. 

The decision sees the Oneworld member join the list of airlines which have either completely scrapped their A380’s or plan to operate a pulled-back fleet in future.

“We have decided that we will not operate them for the foreseeable future, and even when we operate them we will only operate half the numbers we have,” Al Baker said. 

With the pandemic, potentially flying a double-decker aircraft without passengers has dealt a blow to the carrier. The A-380 is one of the worst aircrafts when it comes to carbon emissions due to flying, making the decision environmental as well as economic. 

Instead, Qatar’s focus will shift to its single-deck Boeing 777 flagships plus the modern and more fuel-efficient Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 Dreamliners.


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