Qatar Airways overtakes Emirates as biggest long-haul airline


DOHA: After spending years in the shadow of Emirates Airline, Qatar Airways has eclipsed Emirates as the world’s biggest long-haul carrier through an aggressive strategy during the Covid-19 pandemic, says a report.

“While other airlines have reduced services to markets closed by Covid-19, state-backed Qatar Airways is pursuing new landing rights to emerge stronger post pandemic,” said a Wall Street Journal report.

In the past 12 months, Qatar Airways has flown more seats further than any other airline on cross-border routes, according to data firm OAG.

In the week starting Monday, the carrier is scheduled to fly more than twice the international capacity of Air France, over two-thirds more than Delta Air Lines and over 13 per cent more than Emirates. Across both domestic and long-haul travel, American Airlines remains the world’s largest flier.

Whether Qatar remains the world’s biggest long-haul carrier by capacity partly depends on how quickly other airlines restore schedules and if it has built up enough goodwill with customers to start filling seats as the world resumes travel.

We are ready for competition, we have never shied away from competition, we like competition,” Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said in an interview, in a veiled reference to Emirates, according to the report.

Emirates last month said it would operate the first flight with fully vaccinated crew and passengers. Seeking to outdo its Dubai-based rival, Qatar Airways flew a similar vaccinated flight on 6 April, four days before Emirates’ planned takeoff.

“Regardless what will happen across the world, there will always be markets where people want to travel,” Al Baker said. “We try to take every single dollar that is on the table.” Qatar Airways aircraft are currently 40 per cent full on average, with some flights operating around 15 per cent, he added.

Qatar repatriated some 3.2 million passengers during the pandemic, a move Al Baker said won the loyalty of new customers. It has also opened new connections to places such as San Francisco, Brisbane in Australia, Abidjan in the Ivory Coast and Accra, the capital of Ghana, destinations it plans to keep in its network.

The strategy is already paying off for some routes. Qatar Airways launched flights to Seattle earlier this year and had a 22.3 per cent market share of passenger traffic from Asia in March, versus 16.7 per cent for Emirates, which began operating there nine years ago, according to Seattle-Tacoma International Airp