Qatar Airways aims to connect 120 destinations

The airline remains steadfast to its mission to transport safely and reliably people to destinations amid the pandemic threat

by LYDIA NATHAN / pic by HUSSEIN SHAHARUDDIN

QATAR Airways plans to rebuild its network to more than 120 destinations by the end of 2020 although the pandemic threat shows no sign of abating yet.

According to KPMG International Ltd, a global revenue loss worth US$252 billion (RM1.03 trillion) is anticipated in 2020, but Qatar Airways said its ongoing commitments will help shape the future of the aviation industry.

South-East Asia and South Asia VP of sales Jared Lee said although most airlines are currently suspending their operations, Qatar Airways remains steadfast to its mission to transport people to destinations safely and reliably.

“We recently celebrated our 100th destination which is Sofia, Bulgaria. We aim for many cities to be served with a strong schedule with daily or more frequencies,” said Lee.

The airline’s network will include 21 destinations in Africa, 10 in the Americas, 42 in Asia Pacific, 38 in Europe and 13 in the Middle East.

“Air travel is definitely evolving in many aspects, as some measures implemented are only temporary and there may be more longterm changes,” Lee explained.

“It is far too early to anticipate what changes will become more permanent as these will be driven by various factors like a vaccine, health protocols and consumer behaviour. Nevertheless, we remain optimistic that air travel will continue to remain an indispensable part of our lives,” he added.

The aviation industry has been hit hard this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, facing devastating financial loss due to the decline in passenger numbers and closed borders beginning the middle of the year.

Lee said the airline’s flight schedules were greatly reduced because of the travel restrictions worldwide, but it managed to move quickly in the early stages of the crisis by implementing additional cleaning and hygiene measures on board.

The same standard applies at the Hamad International Airport where the airline adopts both International Air Transport Association and World Health Organisation recommendations.

“Because we had experience in dealing with challenging situations, we chose to remain in operation and pioneered unrivalled flexible booking policies that have proven to be extremely popular with customers.”

Additionally, the airline has paid out more than RM4.93 billion in refunds to almost 600,000 passengers since March 2020.

“Flight tickets are now valid for two years from the date of issuance. Passengers can also choose to change travel dates or destinations free of charge as often as needed,” he said, noting the need of flexibility for the passengers due to the ever-changing pandemic development.

“We also allow a change of origin to another city within the same country or any other destinations in the airline’s network within a 5,000-mile (8,046.7km) radius of the original; exchange tickets for a future travel voucher worth 110% of the original ticket value; or swap the tickets for Qmiles,” he added.

Qatar Airways became the first global carrier to operate Honeywell International Inc’s Ultraviolet (UV) Cabin Cleaning Technology, a beverage cart-sized equipment that uses extendable UV arms to treat aircraft seats, surfaces and cabins without the usage of cleaning chemicals.

Lee said because of this, passengers could expect the highest level of safety and hygiene when on board.

He added that new personal protective equipment was introduced for all passenger and cabin crew which include face shields, disposable protective gowns for cabin crews, surgical masks, large disposable powder-free gloves and also alcohol-based hand sanitiser gel.

“Social distancing is now the norm, both on flights and during the boarding process, while seats are allocated far from each other. Linen and blankets are washed, dried and pressed at microbial lethal temperatures; headsets are properly sanitised after each flight; and meals on board have been adapted and altered to adhere to the strictest hygiene standard to safeguard the health of our passengers,” Lee said.