Outrage Over Qatar Airways’ 24 Mile Cargo Flight

Filed Under: Qatar

Cargo airlines operate some very interesting routes. For example, my home in Miami has a great view of the arrivals path for Miami International Airport, and nothing gets me quite as excited as seeing the Cathay Pacific Cargo 747-8 landing from Anchorage. That’s not a route or plane most people would expect to see!

Qatar Airways’ Controversial Nine Minute 777 Flight

There’s currently controversy surrounding a Qatar Airways Cargo flight, which might also just be the world’s shortest scheduled flight operated by a wide body cargo aircraft.

One of Qatar Airways’ regular 777-200LR cargo routes (QR8173) is from Doha to Liege (in Belgium) to Mexico City. Liege is a cargo hub, so the route isn’t too surprising, as I imagine they transport significant goods to both Belgium and Mexico with this route.

Well, on November 3 QR8173 took a slightly different route, as it flew from Doha to Maastricht to Liege to Mexico City.

The controversy arises from the fact that the flight from Maastricht to Liege covers a distance of just 24 miles, and took just nine minutes.

A similar flight is scheduled again in a few days.

Local politicians and environmentalists are outraged by this flight, pointing out the horrible carbon footprint of such a short journey, claiming that the cargo could have much more efficiently been transported by another mode.

So, what’s the reason for this short flight? As Qatar Airways explains:

“A new Dutch client has requested us to have his cargo delivered at Maastricht Airport, for personal reasons. The runway at Maastricht, however, isn’t long enough to take off and continue to Mexico. Hence, we decided to reposition the aircraft to Liege – with a longer runway – before continuing to Mexico.”

Indeed, the longest runway in Maastricht is 8,200 feet, which wouldn’t be long enough for a fully loaded 777 to take off. Meanwhile in Liege the longest runway is 10,800 feet.

Should Anything Be Done About This?

I feel like this is a slippery slope, as just everything seems to be nowadays (like the controversy about Facebook fact-checking ads).

In an ideal world should this flight operate? Absolutely not, it’s no doubt wasteful. At the same time, presumably the customer was willing to pay extra for the plane to stop in Maastricht, so is it now on cargo airlines to decide the ethics of operating a particular route?

Furthermore, while this is no doubt bad for the environment, we ultimately don’t know what they were carrying, how easily it could have otherwise been transported via other methods, etc. Presumably they paid a significant premium for this, so I imagine that decision didn’t come lightly.

I’ll be curious to see if pressure causes the airline to eliminate the Maastricht stop, or if it continues.

What do you make of this “controversy” — is it a non-story, or should Qatar Airways and/or the customer be ashamed for even considering this?

(Tip of the hat to Dennis & Aviation24)

  1. You try to do what you can but I find the outrage of carbon footprints to be over the top. We got people dying every day over preventable medical conditions, we got countries such as China and India with horrible pollution to the extent you need to wear masks, we got too many places that put raw sewage in water sources, many places people don’t have heat, safe water, etc.

    Worry about this after you fix the more important problems.

  2. Cash is a fact, everything else is an opinion!
    Trucks to bring this cargo from Maastricht to Liège would also have a big carbon footprint, if not worse. And it has for sure to do with RWY-Lenght.
    Predictably, the complainers were out in full force. Nothing can ever be done without some sad sack taking a dump all over it.

  3. Shouldn’t the Dutch client be the source of the blame, they are the one requesting and Qatar only provided the service. To remedy to all problems points to the root cause, if there is no demand there would be no supply. QR was merely a tool.

  4. Exactly how important was this client and their cargo that they had Qatar redirect a scheduled cargo flight?

  5. Very glad to see conscientiousness (and posts) on this topic.

    There’s a huge cost economically (as well as environmentally and socially) coming from climate change and whoever said “eh, go ahead and fly this cargo 24 miles for a ginormous amount of carbon” isn’t paying it.

    A more cogent overall policy would be a carbon tax, but in the interim activism will move us towards this goal. Airlines would do well to take note of these increasing economic and social pressures.

  6. Absolute non-story pushed by green politicians with zero knowledge about the airline sector. QR even said they are considering adding an extra flight DOH-MST next to DOH-LGG instead of combining them DOH-MST-LGG-MEX. Would a second flight then be better for the environment overall? I don’t think so!

    Similarly, idiotic stories regularly turn up in the news of Belgian and Dutch politicians in full Greta-mode complaining about KLM’s BRU-AMS flights, saying that those needing to get from Brussels to Amsterdam could as easily take a train. While this is true if you would be heading city to city, they forget (or simply do not know!) that literally only 2-3 passengers (not percent, passengers!) of a full aeroplane use it for BRU-AMS transport. The rest is of course connecting in AMS to destinations elsewhere.

    Because of this, some Dutch politicians are now calling for flights under 500 kilometres in length to be banned in Europe. I wonder if they ever heard about a thing called ‘islands’ which might exist and would leave communities without proper transportation links. Of course, all of this is pushed by politicians living in capitals like Amsterdam and Brussels who have the money and time to travel by train from their well-linked cities. Those living elsewhere in Europe do not have such luxury. Such idiotic proposals of banning short (feeder) flights would see some airlines like AF, LH, BA and KL losing a lot of passenger to airlines who happen to have longer feeder flights (eg. a passenger in DUS might not be allowed by these politicians to connect by aeroplane in CDG, LHR, AMS, FRA, MUC etc, but can hop on a TK feeder flight to connect in IST). At times I can really get annoyed by such proposals/ideas by people with zero airline knowledge who did not think about the consequences or the unfair competition it would create in Europe, let alone when comparing the European economy vs. the rest of the world.

  7. @Romanianflyer:

    Your outrage over other peoples’ outrage is comical. Please continue writing lengthy and anonymous internet rants that go nowhere, incorrectly place blame, poke fun of people who have differing viewpoints on the environment, and use made-up facts to further a non-cogent point. They brighten my day. Bless your heart…

  8. I have no problem with banning flight less than 500Km, its always cheaper to take trains and buses, and EU has a ton of the high speed trains.

    Now only IF US actually develop a high speed rail network, we would be much less taken hostage by airlines and increasingly unfriendly (literally) atmosphere.

    The transportation industry in this country is morbid. Driving and flying should never been the only two viable options.

  9. Yes, instead of the plane, they should have used a dozen diesel trucks to transport the goods. problem solved. Oh, wait…

  10. There are so many other things worthy of outrage or “controversy”, yet those things generally go ignored in favor of bitching about things like this. So what? Qatar Cargo probably wasted some money/profit on such a routing. And it’s none of anyone else’s business.

    If you’re so damn worried about “the environment”, forget about esoteric things like this and get your ass down the Africa and/or South Asia and volunteer to fight poachers. Protest China and their wholesale dumping of billions of tons of waste into their rivers. There are lots of real things you can do, rather than acting like an annoying toy poodle, nipping at the airport’s ankles.

  11. I agree that an irregular flight like that is not enough to get worked up about.

    However, I disagree with Lucky’s assertion that it shouldn’t be the carrier determining if the route is ethical. That’s Social Responsibility, and should be a factor in the “Total Cost Function” of operating the route.

    @Romanianflyer, regarding trains vs flights, the BRU-AMS flight could easily be replaced by rail if there was greater partnerships between Rail Operators and Airlines (ie. codesharing). Specifically, that route could be traveled by the Thalys train from Centraal to Schipol Airport. This is not only better for most passengers, but less taxing on the environment.

  12. Why stop at this 24-mile flight? Any cargo flight is a waste, because the cargo could always use ocean shipping. For that matter, why isn’t there outrage over every single flight? After all, humans got to North America in canoes, so surely they can use canoes if they wish to travel somewhere else. This blog is an exercise in environmental destruction.

    Sarcasm aside, if people really cared that much, there would be a unified system of carbon taxation with no loopholes or exemptions to capture the externalities caused by such pollution. That way, the market could sort out whether this flight were really worth it.

  13. Sorry if this was obvious but I’m kind of confused. If the runway in MST is too short for takeoff to Mexico city, wouldn’t that mean it is just too short for take-off at all. How is it that the flight can take off from MST and land in LGG but not just take off from MST and continue on? What am I missing here?

  14. I think the customer might not be fully aware, its often the freightforwarder who organises everything on the clients behalf, especially if this was a first/once off drop in Maastricht. Perhaps military cargo

  15. Get a life people – carbon dioxide is necessary for plants to thrive and convert back to oxygen so animals can survive

    More CO2 and plants grow faster and makes earth greener

  16. @Andrew B, I agree that when implemented correctly, the train as a feeder can be a good thing. This is however not possible in most of Europe where there is no good railway infrastructure or where journeys are simply too long. Just I hate it how politicians generalise without thinking about consequences. Eg. banning flights over 500km would have massive negative effects for many airlines, as well as for many island communities or regions otherwise cut off by geograhy. Simply put: people will switch to cars and other flights from different airports on other airlines with zero net benefit.

    @AR. You prove exactly your own point about anonymous internet rants. QED. And I didn’t use made up-facts at all in my statement, being able to speak French and Dutch and being much closer to this particular topic than you as a southern state American. Inform yourself first in Europe’s conflictory and nonsensical environmental policies before commenting. I’m all for helping the environment and curbing CO2, but not in the radical way as some European countries are doing now (eg the Netherlands cutting down large swaths of forests in South Carolina for government-subsidised ‘biofuel’ which turns out to be more polluting than the gas and coal plants which are being closed in the country!).

  17. @Vastgotta, my bet would be horses as cargo. The Belgian-Dutch border area is home to some of the best horse breeding farms and training grounds in the world, and Arabs are among the top customers.

  18. @Tifosi, the problem is probably that the tanks can’t be filled with enough fuel to fly to Mexico in Maastricht due to the take off weight. So refuelling has to be done in Liege.

  19. @Tifosi
    They could have loaded fuel just enough to take off from MST and land at LGG then fill up the tank and fly to MEX.

  20. This is a tax story, so of course no one is talking about taxes. Belgium obviously taxes goods from Qatar and other countries outside the EU at a higher rate than they are taxed by the Netherlands. A buyer in Netherlands doesn’t want to mess with Belgian tariffs and customs regulations.

  21. ban all planes ban all cars and trucks ban all oil and most importantly BAN ALL PEOPLE. we are killing the earth

  22. Some people have no clue about rail travel in Europe and think high speed tracks are just about everywhere. As an example MUC-GVA which is is just 490 km will take you 7:45 hrs, so that’s longer than it takes you to fly there from any US Northeast city. Same thing with a MUC-DRS domestic flight which will take you 6:30 hrs for a lousy 340 km. Other than 5-6 city pairs you can forget about quick train travel in Europe.

  23. @skaner with respect it’s significantly more than 5-6 city pairs The two you quoted are lengthy but can be very cheap if you have time

  24. One thing to know is that the actual runway length at Maastricht is 9022 ft or 2750 m. But due to noise restrictions the operations on the runway are limited to just 8200 ft. So if these regulations should not apply the aircraft should be able to cut the extra stop in Liege.

  25. @Romanianflyer:

    QED, indeed. Even more rants! I love this. Keep ’em coming. This is great.

    ::leaves to pop some popcorn::

  26. All those who endorse the AGW Hoax to hamper such business operations (when justified) are just “appeasing” the AGW Mob that is totally UN-educated about Real Science and True Facts regarding the too-often conflated issues of Pollution + Weather + Climate! Real Scientists actually understand that there has been No credible scientific proof that Man is The cause of Natural Geological Global Warming or Climate Change!

    This World needs to become totally Woke about that AGW Hoax, which is really about Global Hijacking of Power over the World’s Populace, along with Coercive Global Re-Distribution of Wealth! Don’t believe me? I could technically obliterate arguments in favor of AGW, but I’ll just let the former Chief-of-Staff to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez make his Confession about this Hoax in the following report (remove the brackets [ ] surrounding the “.”) —


    This World must halt all of the Insane and Coercive AGW Regulations that are destroying True Progress for Mankind at every level! Everyone must become Educated and Intellectually Rational, rather than remaining Socially Emotional!

  27. You guys realize the cargo wasn’t flown 24 miles, right? That’s a repo flight to get the plane back to Liege. These types of flights occur literally every. single. day.

  28. More than any other post, this gave me a view of the site’s demographics and politics!

    I read one timecard typical flight uses 20% or more of it’s fuel on taxiing. Obviously this is a “waste”. Carbon footprint or not, this is stupidity.

  29. FedEx operates LAX-LGB (21 mi) and LAX-BUR (18 mi) on a regular basis and have seen LAX-ONT/SNA a couple of times, all short flight distances within the same metropolitan area.

  30. @RomanianFler-I can Speak Spanish and Catalan but that doesn’t qualify me to solve the issues here in Spain. Spare us with your rambling BS and your underhanded digs at Southern state Americans. You sound like one of the Facists that seem to be popping up all over the EU. If you want generalizations based on usernames, “Romanian” disqualifies you from being a judge.

  31. I would love to know what those who were complaining (not on this blog) have done in their personal lives to reduce their own carbon footprint. I know Americans who regularly complain but have done nothing themselves. One recently traded a small SUV for a mid sized pickup yet he lives alone and does not use a truck for work. Yet he complains constantly about global warming and the govt not doing anything. Change starts at home!

  32. Yes, internet outrage can be tedious and people can sometimes jump on everything and make it an issue. I guess in relation to this particular event, a 24 mile flight, it highlights the notion that the broader environmental issue is made up of ‘death by a thousand tiny cuts’. It’s precisely because many get irritated by this that is the true problem of outrage. The fact that we don’t care about this flight and people start yelling “We’ll if you care so much, go to Africa or Asia and do something”. The climate crises is made up of innumerable small things that of themselves are inconsequential. That’s the real problem. We dismiss everything as being too tiny to matter. But it does. As someone who worked for over twenty years in aviation, my carbon footprint has been massive. I didn’t realise it at the time. Things like this should be called out. Death by a thousand tiny cuts doesn’t fell like you’re headed for death. But we are. Just an opinion.

  33. @Eric and @Adam L, make note of this…in the near future the carbon tax scheme will be investigated and guess what…it will be found to have enormous corruption consisting of broker fees to endless middlemen. Gasp! And only a fraction will be used for actual so-called “green” projects. And those projects will be deemed useless. It’s the way of humanity. From day one I didn’t buy the carbon tax nonsense…it’s just obvious to not be full of fraud.

  34. @Tim-so accept the challenge and fix the issues or give another solution/idea. But I am sure you are like many of today’s Anericans, you feel it is far too expensive to correct now, puts unfair burdens on business, and the science is flawed. But another another tax break for the rich and corporations and drop in interest rates will solve the world issues.

  35. @ Icarus

    the issue is not with people wanting to fly from MUC to DRS itself it’s about connections from all over the world which is why all these short flights exist. Would you fly a 9 hour transatlantic overnight flight into MUC and then go on another 6-7 hour train ride to get to your final destination? I dont think so!

  36. For the footprint of even an empty 777 departing and landing, you can easily haul 500 road trucks.

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