While most domestic and international airlines are cutting thousands of flights from their schedules due to the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, Qatar Airways is taking another route. The airline is actually stepping up some of its flying again, after also announcing some cuts in the last few days, by adding 10,000 extra seats back to its network.
It’s doing so by adding extra flights to Paris, Perth and Dublin from its hub in Doha, and by using its A380 fleet for flights to Frankfurt, London Heathrow and Perth. In addition, it’s adding charter service to Europe from the U.S. and Asia.
Unlike other airlines, Qatar still serves 75 destinations, including to the U.S., though the airline acknowledges that this could quickly change as some countries adopt tighter restrictions.
In many ways, Qatar’s decision seems counterintuitive, especially given that even its local competitors like Emirates have cut most of their schedules and many U.S. airlines now only serve a handful of international destinations. But Qatar argues that its mission right now is to “reunite stranded passengers with their loved ones.” The company’s data backs this up, with planes to the U.K., France and Germany leaving with about 80% of their seats sold, but outbound flights only being 36% full. The airline says it flew about 100,000 passengers in the last seven days.
The demand here clearly is from passengers trying to get home. That likely won’t last and Qatar, too, will end up shutting down more of its routes. But for the time being, it’s one of the few airlines still offering flights on many of these routes, something it can do because its hub in Doha also remains open for transit passengers. Emirates and Etihad, for example, would likely keep some of its flights going, too, but their hub airports are now closed and other major hubs like Singapore and Hong Kong have banned all transit passengers.