Qatar Airways has taken a completely different strategy than most international airlines during the pandemic. The airline has continued flying in markets where other airlines decided to suspend flights, with the hope of that being a competitive advantage as demand starts to recover. Either that strategy is paying off in the United States, or Qatar Airways is about to take a big gamble.
Qatar Airways’ impressive USA summer schedule
In the coming weeks, Qatar Airways will operate 100+ weekly frequencies to a dozen airports in the United States, which is more service than the airline offered pre-pandemic. That’s right, by next month Qatar Airways will be offering more capacity to the United States than it did in 2019.
Of its 12 destinations, Qatar Airways is operating more than daily (up to double daily) flights in five markets, daily flights in six markets, and less than daily flights in just one market.
Here’s how Qatar Airways’ service increases break down by market:
- Atlanta (ATL) will have 5x weekly flights as of July 15, 2021
- Boston (BOS) will have 7x weekly flights as of July 3, 2021
- Chicago (ORD) will have 14x weekly flights between July 21 and September 26, 2021
- Dallas (DFW) will have 12x weekly flights between July 11 and September 26, 2021
- Houston (IAH) will continue to have 7x weekly flights
- Los Angeles (LAX) will have 14x weekly flights between July 16 and September 26, 2021
- Miami (MIA) will have 7x weekly flights as of July 4, 2021
- New York (JFK) will have 14x weekly flights as of June 29, 2021
- Philadelphia (PHL) will have 7x weekly flights as of July 21, 2021
- San Francisco (SFO) will have 7x weekly flights as of June 29, 2021
- Seattle (SEA) will have 7x weekly as of June 28, 2021
- Washington (IAD) will have 14x weekly flights between July 22 and September 26, 2021
Historically the only Qatar Airways destination in the United States that saw more than once daily service was New York, so to see four more airports get up to twice daily flights is awesome. As you can see, the expanded service is largely through late September, so I’ll be curious to see if any of these capacity increases extend into the fall.
What is Qatar Airways’ strategy here?
I’ve written in the past about Qatar Airways’ pandemic recovery advantage. The way I view it, Qatar Airways has two major advantages coming out of this pandemic compared to competitors.
First of all, Qatar Airways has done a spectacular job building its partnerships, and those changes have been especially noticeable in the United States:
- American Airlines and Qatar Airways now have a strategic partnership, meaning that American Airlines is providing increased feed to Qatar Airways at several of its gateways; this probably partly explains the more than once daily frequencies in Dallas, Los Angeles, etc.
- Alaska Airlines recently joined oneworld, and on top of that has a strategic partnership with Qatar Airways; this is especially valuable for Qatar Airways’ new Seattle service, but there’s also a fair bit of connectivity in Los Angeles and San Francisco
- JetBlue Airways and Qatar Airways recently strengthened their partnership, which is valuable for connectivity in the northeast
With Etihad Airways no longer a major competitor in the United States, and with Emirates Airline not belonging to an alliance and cutting ties with Alaska Airlines, this is a massive competitive advantage for Qatar Airways.
The other major advantage that Qatar Airways has is just how global its route network is right now, thanks to the airline having flown throughout the pandemic. Qatar Airways has a lot of fleet flexibility (especially in comparison to Emirates, which only operates wide bodies), so the airline has been able to keep flying when other airlines couldn’t.
As you start to add back flights following a pandemic, every additional potential city pair helps with filling seats.
Now, ultimately time will tell how this strategy works out for Qatar Airways. It’s fantastic for consumers, though I’m curious how Qatar’s financial results (and load factors, revenue per available seat mile, etc.) compare to carriers like Emirates.
It’s impressive to see how much capacity Qatar Airways will be offering to the United States this summer. The airline will serve more destinations and offer more frequencies than it did pre-pandemic, which is pretty unheard of. I can’t think of any other foreign airline with major service to the United States that has fully restored its service, let alone added more capacity than pre-coronavirus.
What do you make of Qatar Airways’ summer USA schedule?