The airline last year played an important part in the repatriation of seafarers stranded due to the pandemic, working closely with governments and the maritime industry to operate hundreds of chartered and scheduled flights to help bring home thousands of workers.
Matt Raos, Qatar Airways’ Senior Vice President of Global Sales, informs that Qatar Airways will continue to support the movement of seafarers in 2021.
“We’re conscious that keeping your crew moving is important to keeping your operations going,” he told the maritime community attending the Slide2Open Shipping Finance 2021 phygital conference last week.
“As another type of participant in the world freight movement, we know what a vital role international trade and commerce play and we’ve learned particularly during the pandemic just how important the shipping industry is within that and the role that aviation and shipping combined can do to keep the world’s economy moving,” Raos added.
In 2020 Qatar Airways flew consistently during the pandemic with its network never dipping below 30 destinations. The airline added many charter flights to its program when it was not possible to operate scheduled services.
“We saw it as our mission to keep operating our airline network and to keep global trade and global travel moving as much as possible,” Raos said.
Αs part of Qatar Airways’ commitment to keep operating and to keep taking people home, the airline flew more than 3.1 million people back to their home countries in 2020.
“Among them we moved almost a quarter of a million seafarers, either from the ship back to the home country as a sign off process, or from the home country to the ship when they were starting a new contract,” Qatar Airways’ senior VP of global sales said.
During the pandemic, Qatar Airways sustained operations every day to key locations for seafarers and for the shipping industry, including Athens, Amsterdam, Jakarta, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Manilla; and operated charters to destinations such as Sao Paulo; Port of Spain; Bridgetown, Barbados; and Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
Moreover, the airline launched charter flights for maritime workers to many destinations not previously served, including Cebu and Clark in the Philippines; Brisbane in Australia; Accra in Africa; and – most recently – Seattle and San Francisco in the United States.
Raos highlighted that 2021, like 2020, is not an ordinary year and said that Qatar Airways will continue to support maritime crew movement.
“We can do so in a way that’s safe and hygienic during the pandemic and as comfortable we can make it for crews, who we understand have been under the stress and pressures of being abroad for a long time, and maybe even longer than usual because of the pandemic conditions,” he said.
Aiming to offer seafarers extra comfort between their transit flights, Qatar Airways established a dedicated Mariner Lounge at Hamad International Airport in November 2020.
“This exclusive lounge is there for seafarers and for offshore workers… It was opened to help crews find their journeys more comfortable and more secure, knowing there is a dedicated space just for them,” Raos said.
“2020 was really one of the most challenging times in aviation. 2021 is starting in a similar vain and I think we all owe it to our customers, our business partners and our employees to operate to the highest standards of safety and professionalism and the highest service levels as we can during these difficult times,” Raos said.
Qatar Airways is currently operating to 130 destinations and almost 1,000 flights every week.
“We plan to keep going, adding a little bit more capacity doing so responsibly as markets return and governments adjust their travel restrictions,” Raos said, adding that the company sees the United States as an interesting market.
“We’ve now restored service to all but one destination we flew before the pandemic in the US, with service to Atlanta coming back in June. On top we’ve deepened our partnership with American Airlines, giving us full reach into the country,” he said.
Qatar Airways also has a partnership with Jet Blue and expects to launch a cooperation with Alaska Airlines, both US carriers.
In other parts of the world Qatar Airways has teamed up with various strategic airline partners, including British Airways and IBERIA, part of the IAG Group; Latam Airlines in Brazil; and Cathay Pacific in the Asia Pacific region.
“These partners give us greater reach and also help us carry seafarers from almost anywhere on earth to almost anywhere else they need to go,” Raos said.
Qatar Airways’ senior VP of global sales added that the airline is committed to operating its fleet with environmental sustainability as one of its key goals.
“Our operations today are predicated on our Boeing 787, an Airbus A350 fleets, which are both among the youngest in the sky and come with the best cabin products on board… From an environmental perspective these are the most fuel efficient aircraft you will find in the sky and the right size for the travel demands in today’s market,” he said.
Held March 16-18, the Slide2Open Shipping Finance 2021 phygital conference saw the attendance of key figures from the shipping, banking, financing, trade and IT industries, as well as state representatives and regulatory authorities. The phygital conference was held in Athens and watched from all over the world.
Qatar Airways was a partner of the Slide2Open Shipping Finance 2021 phygital conference.