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Qatar Airways defies pandemic to become world’s biggest

March 31, 2021 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Qatar Airways has shrugged off pandemic gloom to unveil a new season’s schedule of over 1200 weekly frequencies across 142 destinations – an achievement capping a month in which the airline will become the world’s largest air carrier, as measured by available seat kilometres.

Available seat kilometres (ASK) measure the number of seats available multiplied by the distance flown. ASK is a fundamental unit of production for a passenger-carrying airline.

During the peak of the coming IATA (Northern) Summer Season 2021, Qatar Airways will operate over 1200 weekly frequencies across 43 destinations in Asia-Pacific (including Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth), 23 destinations in Africa, 14 in the Americas, 43 in Europe and 19 in the Middle East.

The difference in strategy between Qatar Airways and Australian airline Qantas could not be starker. Qantas has ceased all scheduled international operations and is concentrating on domestic flying, while looking forward to the opening of a prospective quarantine-free “travel bubble” with New Zealand (Covid outbreaks permitting).

Lamp Bear by Urs Fischer. A feature of Hamad International Airport (HIA) in Doha

To give Qantas its due, it is hampered by Australian government regulations that forbid Australian citizens and residents to leave the country without an exemption permit (which is more likely to be refused than granted). Incoming passengers must do two weeks quarantine in an approved facility (generally a hotel) on arrival in Australia, at their own expense.

Australia’s firm quarantine restrictions have cut international travel to the bone.

Then again, as a preventative measure against Covid-19, quarantine works. The total Covid death toll in Australia so far is 909. In the UK, much slower to impose quarantine, the Covid death toll is 126,615.

Recent figures from travel data provider OAG show Qatar Airways to be the world’s largest airline by ASKs, offering the most flights to international destinations.

Throughout the pandemic, Qatar Airways has never stopped flying. It has received multiple awards, including being the first global airline in the world to achieve the prestigious 5-Star Covid-19 Airline Safety Rating by Skytrax.

Qatar Airways group chief executive, Akbar Al Baker (pictured), said his airline was “proud to lead the recovery of international aviation, implementing the highest standards of bio-safety and hygiene and investing in the latest innovations to simplify travel and restore passenger confidence during the most challenging period in aviation’s history.

“We also continue to offer the largest international network, including launching seven new destinations, to provide the connectivity our passengers and cargo customers need.

“As the global vaccine rollout begins to gather pace, we look forward to a gradual easing of entry restrictions throughout 2021 and welcoming back our millions of passengers on board the World’s Best Airline.”

Qatar Airways offers unlimited date changes and fee-free refunds for all tickets issued before 30 April 2021, for travel completed by 31 December 2021.

Since the onset of the pandemic, Qatar Airways Cargo has helped transport over 500,000 tonnes of medical supplies and delivered more than 15,000,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines to over 20 countries.

Hamad International Airport (HIA), the airline’s home and hub, was ranked ‘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 steadily risen in the ‘World’s Best Airports’ rankings since the start of its operations in 2014.

In addition, HIA was 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. It is also the first and only airport in the Middle East and Asia to be awarded a Skytrax 5-Star Covid-19 Airport Safety Rating.

Here, for the record, are Qatar Airways destinations due to be operating by the peak of IATA (Northern) Summer Season 2021*:


Abuja(ABV),Accra (ACC), Addis Ababa (ADD), Alexandria (HBE), Algiers (ALG), Cairo(CAI), 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)


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


Adelaide (ADL), Ahmedabad (AMD), Amritsar (ATQ), Auckland (AKL), Bali (DPS), Bangalore (BLR), Bangkok (BKK), Brisbane (BNE), Calicut (CCJ), Cebu (CEB), Chennai (MAA), Clark (CRK), Colombo (CMB), Dhaka (DAC), Goa (GOI), Guangzhou (CAN), Hangzhou (HGH), Hanoi (HAN), Ho Chi Minh City (SGN), Hong Kong (HKG),  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), New Delhi (DEL), Perth (PER), Peshawar (PEW), Phuket (HKT), Seoul (ICN), Singapore (SIN), Sialkot (SKT), Sydney (SYD), Tokyo Narita (NRT), Trivandrum (TRV)


Adana (ADA), Amsterdam (AMS), Antalya(AYT), Ankara (ESB), Athens (ATH), Baku (GYD), Barcelona (BCN), Belgrade (BEG), Berlin (BER), Bodrum (BJV), Brussels (BRU), Bucharest (OTP), Budapest (BUD), Copenhagen (CPH), Dublin (DUB), Edinburgh (EDI), Frankfurt (FRA), Helsinki (HEL), Istanbul (IST), Istanbul Sabiha (SAW), Izmir (ADB), Kiev (KBP), Larnaca (LCA), London (LHR), London Gatwick (LGW), Madrid (MAD), Manchester (MAN), Milan (MXP), Moscow (DME), Munich (MUC), Mykonos (JMK),  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

Abu Dhabi (AUH), Amman (AMM), Baghdad (BGW), Basra (BSR), Beirut (BEY), Dammam (DMM), Dubai (DXB), Erbil (EBL), Isfahan (IFN), Jeddah (JED), Kuwait (KWI), Mashhad (MHD), Muscat (MCT), Najaf (NJF), Riyadh (RUH), Salalah (SLL), Shiraz (SYZ), Sulaymaniyah (ISU), Tehran (IKA)

*Subject to regulatory approval 

Written by Peter Needham

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