Qatar Airways Cancels China Flights, But For A Different Reason Than Other Airlines

Filed Under: Qatar

Over the past several days we’ve seen a countless number of airlines cancel flights to China. Typically airlines have rationalized this decision in one of two ways:

  • They’ve canceled flights for the safety of their crews
  • They’ve canceled flights due to a huge reduction in demand

Well, this weekend it was announced that Qatar Airways is suspending all flights to mainland China as of February 3, 2020, and until further notice. This makes them the first of the major Gulf carriers to make this decision.

While the decision as such makes perfect sense, what’s interesting is the logic they’re providing for this decision.

Qatar Airways isn’t canceling China flights for the safety of their crews or due to a reduction in demand, but rather “due to significant operational challenges caused by entry restrictions imposed by several countries.”

An increasing number of countries have added new restrictions denying entry to those who have visited China recently (most often within 14 days), so that presents an issue for Qatar Airways to staff flights. Since this restriction includes crews who recently traveled to China, this would prevent the airline from scheduling crews on certain routes, and would limit their ability to maintain scheduled operations elsewhere.

The airline is reviewing operations on a weekly basis, with the intention of restoring flights as soon as the restrictions are lifted.

Qatar Airways flies to half a dozen destinations in mainland China, including Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, and Shanghai.

As Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker explains the decision:

“We have been placed in a challenging operational situation where the airline cannot continue with its global operations as a result of these restrictions on anyone who has visited China. If we continue operations, the significant numbers of crew who would have travelled to China, would be limited to operate on certain flights, reducing our operational effectiveness. We will immediately resume our operations to China once the governmental restrictions are lifted.”

Qatar Airways has cut flights to half a dozen destinations in China

Bottom line

We’ve seeing an increasing number of airlines cancel flights to China. This is obviously a very fluid situation, and as far as I know, Qatar Airways is the first major airline to cancel flights due to the logistical challenges the situation poses for their crews.

Even if an airline wants to continue flying to China, I can see how this could be a huge scheduling mess for employees, with countries adding restrictions for those who have recently been to China.

Given the latest information on the coronavirus situation, my thinking changed, and I ultimately canceled my flight through Beijing. For more on the rapidly-developing situation, check out these posts:

  1. That’s the stated, don’t-upset-China reason. If QR wanted to continue flying to China it could creat a dedicated staff of flight attendants to service the Chinese destinations from Doha.

  2. Qantas pulled the plug first because of the US and NZ crew requirements. Qatar is following suit given logistical issues.

  3. I agree with @Ted that this is more about not wanting to upset China. If they really wanted to fly to China, they could definitely just have a set crew assigned to China flights. And considering how many Chinese destinations they have and the presumed drop in demand, it wouldn’t be that hard to create a specific staff for it and just use 1 aircraft type for all China routes so the China staff are all certified on that 1 type. Really wouldn’t take the brightest corporate monkeys to make it work. They just clearly aren’t that motivated…

  4. “Since this restriction includes crews who recently traveled to China, this would prevent the airline from scheduling crews on certain routes, and would limit their ability to maintain scheduled operations elsewhere.”

    With respect to the US order specifically, this is actually NOT true. There’s an explicit exception granted for crew in the text. That is, aircrew does not have to satisfy the 14-day constraint.

  5. It makes sense, otherwise you will need a dedicated crew that only flies to China.

    That would definitely lead to many unhappy pilots and flight attendants, and possible strike for any airline.

    Crew members are trying to dodge China flights to begin with, there is no way they will ONLY fly to China~ LOL

  6. Blame it travel restrictions and crew scheduling is just like hotels stop using single use bottles due to environmental concerns.


    Like hotels who do it to save cost.
    QR does it to save cost from low loads.

    Akbar Al Baker, when did that guy ever talk straight. A handful of people with more lies than Trump. Look at how many time @Lucky trolls about him here.

  7. This is an appropriately face-saving (for China) reason to cancel flights. I’d be looking for a similar excuse if I ran an airline. It’s important not to hurt the feelings of the Chinese people because they are very sensitive, and if you do that, it can be harmful for commercial opportunities later.

  8. Light pax loads and mass cancellations of forward bookings combined with logistical difficulties make it a no-brainer to pull the plug for the foreseeable future.
    China is still struggling with the concept of being a responsible world citizen given the emergence of news about the official suppression of the coronavirus issue.

  9. China is hinting other countries to conduct entry requirements and flight bans.

    Beijing knows the most effective way is to shut their borders down themselves. However that will put 1.4 million people into pandemonium and they will have no way to control civil unrest countrywide if it happens.

    The earliest batch of countries (even before US and AU) to close their borders were Russia, North Korea, and Singapore. Which makes no sense on the surface because those are three countries that have the greatest of relationships with China. They would not piss off their buddy unless they weren’t given the OK to do so by China.

    China is hoping once everyone else puts some sort of ban on them, it will create a situation where no one can leave china because they would have nowhere to go anyways.

    But it is not a perfect closed system, other countries have certain liberties and rights for its people. US and etc can only stop foreigners from traveling, but still have to allow its citizens. This creates a dangerous loophole.

  10. If you fly Qatar Airways, you support modern day slavery and terrorism. Why would anyone fly them let alone to China?

  11. @John

    Same could be said for iPhones. Child labor and terrorist communication device.

    You are getting dumber every post.
    You should be banned like @debit. At least @debit is much smarter with the comments even with the extremist political views.

  12. @Sir Fly a Lot – While it makes sense on the surface, I don’t buy it. China absolutely does have the power to seal itself off if it wanted to. At the very least they could ground flights with ease. If they haven’t done so then the most likely explanation is they don’t want to.

    And what country bans its own citizens from entering in scenarios like this? I can’t think of a single time that’s happened.

  13. I’m also reading this as:

    People who fly Qatar will most likely be transmitting to somewhere else other than Doha… therefore, with countries putting restrictions on passengers coming from China, that means Qatar ends up with people not being able to travel further than Doha! A logistical nightmare!

  14. I like the comments here saying they could “definitely” just have dedicated crew for China. Other reasons being involved or not aside, that statement alone shows how little people understand in running an actual airline. Which is ok, but going around making definite statements as if its based on anything bugs me.

  15. This is 100% true, though as @Eskimo stated “Qatar flies with light loads to China”. In actual fact its not true. The demand is high and always overbooked. I have worked in both qr and ek, and the only reason why Emirates can operate in this situation is due to 50% of the crew population does not have a US Visa therefore they just roster all crew not on the “Master Crew List” as its called.
    Very simple as they have a higher crew number to satisfy the need in this situation. They also changed the aircrafts to mostly all their mainland China destinations from A380 to B777 to have a lower crew count operating these select destinations while still operating and keeping the entire market from themselves. While on the other hand Qatar Airways has a smaller crew count in size(high turnover too, same as ek) and they can’t keep up with the mixed rosters of crew US and China. They could somehow do it as normally junior crew only fet their US Visa after one year operating. I’m sure this was considered and the crew numbers didn’t suffice in order to operate normally… due to flight time limitations in rosters and east to west resting period post flights.
    This is obviously a huge loss for Qr as they offer a far superior product than Ek in every class yet sadly they can’t operate.
    This will be possible when Qatar will grow in the near future.

    Aviation finances and politics aside, I hope for the situation in china to resolve and good health to everybody around the globe!!
    Fly Safe!

  16. Very smart move…

    One risk of having become a major hub with spokes radiating in all directions is to become a possible breeding ground for an infectious disease such as the present one. A regular user of QR between Africa/Middle East/Parts of Eastern Europe on one side and the US on the other, I was getting concerned about finding myself in Doha airport and on board flights with potentially infected passengers in transit and I had just decided to avoid Doha (and therefore QR) for the foreseable future.

    That self imposed restriction is now lifted

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