Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker believes there is no market for Airbus’ A380 jumbo-jets in the near future.
“We grounded the A380 simply because it is a very fuel inefficient airplane,” said Akbar Al Baker, the airline’s CEO, during a Simple Flying webinar. “As a matter of fact, we have taken impairment [charges] on five of the 10 A380s we have.”
Al Baker added that purchasing the aircraft was a “big mistake”. “It was good when it was launched in 2002, but unfortunately, with the rising fuel price, we think it was a big mistake.”
Qatar Airways expects its order for 65 Boeing 777x jets to be delivered by 2022. “I don’t think Boeing is going to delay this airplane beyond 2022, (although) there is a huge pressure on the supply chain due to the pandemic,” said Al Baker.
Qatar’s flagship carrier has plans of flying to 150 destinations this summer, but given the state of air travel demand, it remains to be seen if the airline will hit the sufficient load factor levels.
“I cannot guarantee that we will be filling our airplanes, but what is very important is that we will keep our passengers connected over our network,” said Al Baker. “We also make sure that we fill our airplanes with cargo. With ships being restricted from so many ports because of crew getting infected with COVID, there is a big demand for air freight.”
Travel Pass initiative
Qatar Airways was the first Middle East airline to trial IATA’s Travel Pass on its Doha-Istanbul route. The Travel Pass will allow passengers to have a digital passport verified with all their pre-travel test or vaccination details to meet the requirements at the end destination. They will also be able to share test and vaccination certificates with authorities and airlines to facilitate smoother processing at airports.
The airline head said a “lot of people” subscribed to the platform, which is currently available on operating systems like Android and Apple’s iOS. “What it will do is to give a traveling person confidence of rules and regulations in each country that are implemented,” said Al Baker. “The problem is that each government is making its own protocols and, at times, they are changing rules when the passengers are already on their way.”
Relaunching First Class?
Qatar Airways may re-introduce the First Class on two or three sectors from Doha, said Al Baker. “I’m still debating and trying to go to the second phase, and I hope I will succeed,” said the CEO. “I am getting a huge demand from my countrymen for First Class, which we removed from our planes in 2006.”