Dubai: Qatar Airways could easily increase the number of destinations to 190 from 177, but that would depend on aircraft deliveries, said the CEO Akbar Al Baker.
The airline is being conservative because of its dependence on new deliveries from Airbus or Boeing amidst still festering supply gaps. “We have already started taking deliveries of Boeing 737 Max aeroplanes, (but) have a delay in the delivery of 787s and 777X. We were expecting a large number of 777-9 to be delivered this year.
“And with issues Boeing is having with its regulators, it is delaying our deliveries,” he explained.
If aircraft manufacturers deliver on time, Al Baker said Qatar Airways could add 85-90 destinations this year. The airline plans to expand to eight new destinations (including Ras Al Khaimah), resume services on 12 routes, and increase frequencies to 40 markets.
“All this leads to a total of 177 destinations by the end of March 2024,” said Al Baker. The airline operates over 655 weekly flights.
Al Baker said he hoped Boeing would be able to resolve its supply chain challenges as soon as possible and made a passing remark about the amicable settlement that Qatar Airways had with Airbus over a dispute on the safety of the A350 jetliner. “All Airbus deliveries that were cancelled have been reinstated, and we hope to start receiving aircraft shortly,” he added.
Al Baker also said that 95 per cent of the staff Qatar Airways laid off during the pandemic were brought back, thanks to the massive hiring spree the airline partook in ahead of the FIFA World Cup that Qatar Airways hosted last year.
Al Baker added that high oil prices have not dented passenger demand for travel at Qatar Airways, where load factors, a measure of capacity utilisation, are in the high 80 per cent. The airline spent $2.4 billion more than it had budgeted on fuel in 2022, he said. It had taken steps to shield customers from higher energy prices but warned that it is ‘not an unlimited cushion’. “As an airline, we are responsible to our shareholders to give them a return their investment,” he added.