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Interview: Qatar Airways Flies Through the Pandemic

Boarding the Qatar Airways A350-1000 in Toulouse (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fabian Behr)

Recently we had the opportunity to sit down with Eric Odone, Senior Vice President of the Americas at Qatar Airways to pick his brain on a few topics related to global travel during the COVID-19 pandemic and how Qatar Airways is adapting to these challenges and more.

Since March airlines have cut capacity left and right, aircraft were parked in the desert, and staff put on thin ice over their continued employment. Global demand plummeted and that is where Qatar Airways took an opportunity.

Bringing People Home

As carriers around the world were suspending international operations Qatar Airways was continuing to operate a relatively expansive schedule. The airline realized that there are people who are scattered across the world and want to get back home. Odone stated that the airline wanted to be the one that got people home who were stranded and also didn’t want to abandon passengers who had booked on the airline previously, even mentioning that governments took note of Qatar Airways’ operations. Various governments around the world ended up using the airline for over 200 charter flights to help bring the citizens of various countries back home.

All of these efforts resulted in Qatar Airways carrying nearly 20 percent of all worldwide air travelers in the month of April. This was nearly two million passengers. In May the carrier was flying to nearly 50 destinations and it’s set to grow with flights returning to the United States. New York resumed on June 19 and Boston, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC will resume on July 1. This accompanies existing service from Chicago and Dallas/Forth Worth.

The end goal here is to offer 39 weekly flights from the US to Qatar and onwards by mid-July.

Moving onwards to safety during this pandemic we had time to discuss with Odone the various steps that Qatar Airways is undertaking to ensure the safety of passengers and crew. Odone stated that since Qatar Airways never really stopped flying throughout the pandemic they have a trove of information to build off of and have already implemented various safety measures.

Continued Cabin Service Without Compromising Safety

Cabin crew are outfitted with complete PPE for their safety and for the safety of the crew. Planes are sanitized frequently and Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar Airways’ hub has implemented various sanitation techniques as well.

We also had discussed something recently written about on the site, and that is service. It’s good to know that Qatar Airways is doing it’s best to continue offering a near full experience on their aircraft with the proper safety measures while other airlines are cutting corners. All cutlery will be prepackaged for customers. In economy they still will receive meals that will be individually wrapped to maintain hygiene.

In business class, service has been changed to tray service instead of full table service, however, the full menu is still available. Odone stated that important aspects of the brand such as the quality of the meals and dine on demand are still available without any reduction in quality or quantity. It was also noted that alcohol will continue to be served with minimal disruption unlike many other airlines.

All in all, Qatar has done well managing a crisis and found the opportunity to be the airline that helped many people get home when there were no other options available to them. In addition, they’ve played their part thanking healthcare workers around the world by offering 100,000 complimentary tickets to healthcare workers across the world, including in countries currently imposing the blockade on Qatar.

In times of crisis, it’s vital to improvise and overcome challenges instead of shutting down entirely. Qatar Airways managed to fly through the pandemic bringing millions of people back home when other airlines couldn’t.

Hemal Gosai


  • Hemal Gosai

    Hemal took his first flight at four years old and has been an avgeek since then. When he isn't working as an analyst he's frequently found outside watching planes fly overhead or flying in them. His favorite plane is the 747-8i which Lufthansa thankfully flies to EWR allowing for some great spotting. He firmly believes that the best way to fly between JFK and BOS is via DFW and is always willing to go for that extra elite qualifying mile.

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