The CEO of Qatar Airways said he was launching service from Doha to Atlanta ‘to rub salt in the wounds’ of Delta which sought to shut Qatar, along with Gulf carriers Emirates and Etihad (but not Delta partner Saudia, or Delta partner Alitalia which is controlled by Etihad) out of the US market and raise prices on consumers.
Delta contends that moving billions of dollars in pension obligations off their books and onto the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation isn’t a subsidy (even though they got to keep the tax losses to write off against future profits in bankruptcy). And the subsidies for their oil refinery aren’t subsidies for the airline. But the Qatar government’s investment in the state-owned Qatar Airways is unfair. As largest US airlines earn nearly half the world’s airline profits.
23 Foot Tall Bronze Teddy Bear in the Doha Airport
Delta’s then-CEO even blamed the Gulf carriers for 9/11 even though elements of the Saudi Arabian government may have been complicit in the attacks and Delta continues to partner with state-backed Saudia.
Naturally, Qatar’s launch in Atlanta was contentious with Delta even pulling sponsorship of an Atlanta cultural institution that rented out its space to Qatar for the airline’s launch event.
Delta President Glen Hauenstein argues the flight will inevitably fail because “the Atlanta-Doha market has fewer than five people a day.” Of course the misunderstands and misrepresents the Qatar business model. Indeed, Hauenstein’s complaint is that they serve not just Doha but funnel connecting traffic throughout India, Pakistan, and surrounding areas.
Qatar Boeing 777 Business Class
Airlines usually expect to lose money on new routes. It takes time to build awareness and traffic when a carrier enters a market they haven’t served before, or haven’t served in many years. It’s not surprising that American has had a hard time with many of its new Asia flights, but operating those flights isn’t indicative of unfair subsidy to American Airlines (or is it?).
There was no reason for Delta to station someone at the Qatar gate in Atlanta watching passengers board, because passenger counts are reported by the airline. And Qatar appears to be filling its daily flight.
New figures from Hartsfield-Jackson give some insights into how Qatar’s Atlanta flights did in the first month of operations. The data, reported by the airlines, shows that 5,845 passengers boarded Qatar flights departing Atlanta in June, and 7,275 passengers arrived in Atlanta on Qatar jets.
That’s an average of nearly 195 passengers a day boarding flights, and nearly 243 passengers a day getting off flights. The airline operates one flight per day in each direction.
An average of 219 passengers per 259 seat Boeing 777-200LR represents almost an 85% load factor. Fares are relatively though on the route, but that’s part of the model and sustainable for a new route when they’re filling the aircraft.
One interesting thing is that there are more passengers flying the inbound Doha – Atlanta flight than there are flying out of Atlanta.
That’s consistent with what I’ve seen in terms of award availability. Here’s what the route looks like for 2 business class award seats next month: open nearly every day Atlanta – Doha, not available often Doha – Atlanta.
The Atlanta flight is super useful for American AAdvantage members looking to travel to the Mideast, Africa, or ‘Indian Subcontinent’.