With more than 30 of its daily flights canceled due to a blockade from its neighbors, Qatar Airways has come up with a creative solution for its spare capacity problem.
The airline has apparently agreed to loan nine of its Airbus A320 aircraft to British Airways to fly on short-haul routes over the summer.
BA this week asked the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority for approval to use the aircraft and their Qatar Airways crews between July 1 and July 16.
The so-called “wet lease” deal is to provide cover for a planned 16-day strike by British Airways Mixed Fleet cabin crew in July.
“The application has been made on the grounds that the lease is justified on the basis of exceptional needs … to enable British Airways to continue passenger operations in light of planned operational disruption by its mixed fleet cabin crew,” a CAA document said, according to Reuters.
It is highly unusual for British Airways to use another airline’s aircraft and crew to cover its flights.
However, Qatar Airways owns 20 percent of BA’s parent company IAG, and the airlines are also oneworld partners.
It’s not clear whether Qatar Airways will send its mainline planes to London, or the more sparsely equipped aircraft that had been due to serve on the now defunct Al Maha routes.
According to the Points Guy, if normal Qatar Airways aircraft are used, it will be a big upgrade for BA short-haul passengers who are used to smaller seats and a limited service:
“The use of Qatar Airways aircraft on short-haul British Airways routes will not only be an unusual first for BA, it will be a huge upgrade for both economy and business passengers (if BA is given approval by the CAA).
It’s likely the airline will be granted permission, and these Qatar Airways cabins will offer BA passengers a unique and different experience during a disruptive time for British Airways, which is having to deal with yet another strike.”
ICAO special meeting
BA’s request should keep some of Qatar Airways’ shorthaul aircraft briefly busy this summer. But the airline is still dealing with the impact of ongoing bans on flights over its neighboring countries.
This is leading to longer flight times and, crucially, higher fuel costs.
In an effort to end these bans, Qatar Airways has asked the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to hold a special meeting next week.
Qatar’s Minister of Transport Jassim Saif Al Sulaiti told Reuters that Qatar wanted to “get more routes” and wanted ICAO to open air routes over Gulf waters currently managed by the United Arab Emirates.
However, the ICAO likely won’t be able to bring about a swift resolution to the dispute.
According to Reuters, ICAO cannot impose rules on states. And efforts to resolve similar issues in the past, such as the case of Cuba and the US in the 1990s, took years.