2020 was an unexpected and hard-hitting year for businesses globally due to the coronavirus pandemic, with significant impact on the aviation industry. As a global carrier, how has Covid-19 pandemic impacted your business?
Naturally, we were affected by border closures, but even during the worst of the pandemic, we never stopped flying to at least 30 destinations. Qatar Airways is the largest airline to have flown consistently throughout the pandemic. We operated repatriation flights and flew PPE supplies, and ramped our schedule up as soon as it was viable. We now operate to more than140 destinations globally.
During the worst of the pandemic, we constantly evaluated demand and looked for opportunities, and even launched new destinations in Africa over the last nine months, including Harare in Zimbabwe, Lusaka in Zambia, Luanda in Angola and Abuja in Nigeria. It’s been tough, but we never stopped being optimistic about aviation in Africa, which is a crucial market for us.
More border restrictions are being eased with rising vaccination rates, what are your airline post-pandemic recovery plans and how do you plan to recapture the hearts of your fliers?
We intend to keep expanding our routes and schedules and we constantly look for partnerships with other airlines to improve our customers’ travel experience. Connectivity is key, but we also pride ourselves on an unsurpassed travel experience. It’s why we operate modern aircraft on our African routes and offer the same uncompromising service and hospitality as we do across our global network.
With the continuous emergence of new variants such as Delta and Gamma variants, how can Qatar airways boost travellers’ confidence in relation to their health and safety?
The safety, security and good health of our customers and personnel is always our highest priority. We also continue to ensure that we lead the way in terms of safety and hygiene measures, with new procedures implemented throughout our customers’ journey, from check-in to arrival.
This year, we received the SkyTrax 5-Star COVID-19 Airline Safety Rating, for example. Additionally, Qatar Airways was the first global carrier to operate Honeywell’s Ultraviolet (UV) Cabin System version 2.0, further advancing its hygiene measures on board.
What differences have you witnessed in passenger traffic between pre covid-19 and post-pandemic travels? What trends can you predict for the rest of the year?
Its well-documented that Covid-19 has had an unprecedented impact on airlines and their customers. In terms of trends, we expect a lot more strategic alliances and partnerships in the period ahead. That provides an opportunity for domestic airlines to tap into our networks across the globe. We also expect leisure and business travel to accelerate as travel restrictions ease and vaccination rates increase. A lot of people are very eager to travel again, to visit new places, to visit family and friends, to do business. We’re eager to accommodate them.
The Nigerian government and the UAE remain in a much publicized standstill, with the UAE yet to lift the ban on Nigerian travel to the country, affecting operations of Emirate airlines. How has Qatar positioned to fill the void?
Its an opportunity to offer travelers in Nigeria the most memorable flying experience in the world and access to 90 countries on every inhabited continent. We offer one of the world’s most modern fleets, our spacious and comfortable seating, delectable cuisine and extensive entertainment options, make flying with us a truly remarkable experience.
Qatar has made a strategic move to increase flight frequencies to Lagos and expand operations to Abuja. What does this expansion move mean for Nigerian fliers and Qatar’s operation?
It signifies more choice and an improved travel experience. Our uncompromising approach to service and quality has been recognised through numerous sought-after and contested awards through the years. Most recently, we were named the World’s Best Airline by eDreams, Airline of the Year by Airlineratings.com, and our hub airport, the Hamad International Airport in Doha was named the best airport in the world. We’re proud that we’re able to offer that experience to customers in Lagos and Abuja, and as stated, we operate our most modern aircraft on our African routes.
Should the Nigerian public expect similar expansion to other prominent regions, like Port-Harcourt, in the near future?
We constantly investigate new routes and partnerships and would announce them when appropriate.