Qatar Air Needs ‘Miracle’ for All Flights to Resume Before 2023

(Bloomberg) --

Qatar Airways said it won’t be able to operate a full network of flights until 2023 “unless a miracle” happens within the next year, as the aviation market begins a long, slow recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

The travel industry needs “around two to three years to get back to 2019 levels,” Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said in a phone interview on Monday. The Doha-based company has reduced headcount to help reduce operating costs while planes remain grounded, he said.

Airlines around the globe were forced to halt almost all commercial passenger flights after governments slammed shut their borders to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. Airlines stand to lose $314 billion in ticket sales this year, the International Air Transport Association estimates, and it remains unclear when carriers will be able to resume even a partial service.

Qatar has been able to keep operating 75% of its fleet even as other carriers have idled 90% or more, Al Baker said. That’s been partly to accommodate cargo transport and the repatriation of foreign nationals to their home countries.

The CEO also said:

  • Qatar Airways plans to rehire employees made redundant once countries start to lift travel bans imposed to contain the coronavirus
  • Social distancing will be factored in when the airline restarts operations in a way that complies with local and international regulations
  • Leaving an empty seat between travelers may be part of a long-term solution, though this will be harder to enforce with families
  • Qatar Airways will give 100,000 round-trip tickets to front-line medical workers to thank them for their work looking after patients during the coronavirus pandemic

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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