The United Arab Emirates international transit hubs of Dubai and Abu Dhabi fell silent on Wednesday March 25 as the country’s suspension of all passenger flights came into force.
Rival Gulf carrier Qatar Airways has seized on the opportunity presented by the shutdown and is expanding its services to keep up with the demand from travelers desperate to return to their home countries as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic accelerates.
Their decision to keep flying, however, raises serious questions over whether they are putting passengers, staff and crew safety at risk to reap the financial rewards of maintaining operations when other carriers have made the sensible decision to scale-back.
Qatar Airways has reinstated some routes and is currently running 150 flights a day to 70 destinations worldwide including cities in some of the country’s worst-hit by the deadly virus such as Tehran, Rome, Madrid, Berlin and Paris.
“It’s clear there is such a very strong desire amongst people all over the world to get home, so that is what we are wholly focused on right now – how can we get people home from right around the world,” Qatar Airway’s Chief Commercial Officer Simon Talling-Smith told Executive Traveller on March 25.
In light of this, the airline announced via its Facebook page on March 25 that it will be, “upgrading aircraft to 12 global destinations, including Perth, Paris, Frankfurt and London, as well as reinstating our Airbus A380 where possible.”
Qatar has recorded 526 confirmed cases and 41 recoveries from coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University modelling. The global number of cases now exceeds 440 000.
“We’re changing things almost by the day, but across the board we are increasing the amount of flying we are doing, with both larger aircraft and more frequencies and some more destinations,” said Talling-Smith.