Qatar’s New Atlanta Flight is Doing Swell — But it’s Great for Award Availability

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’.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. What an incredible false equivalence. Government ownership is on the same level as receiving any kind of tax benefit? What about the fact that the US corporate tax rate is the highest in the world? You might enjoy the service on the gulf carriers, but your bias is clouding your judgment. However, I’m not in favor of any protectionist actions, since as you say it would raise prices. However, Delta does have as strong a case as others that have received much better federal support, such as US steelmakers and farmers.

    I would still encourage all to boycott the gulf carriers, not because of unfair competition, but because by supporting them you are also financially supporting some of the most oppressive, anti-gay, anti-women, anti-any religion except Islam regimes in the world.

  2. US effective corporate tax rates (what businesses actually pay) are on par with other OECD countries.

  3. US corporate tax rates are irrelevant as most companies ignore them anyway through things like the “Double Irish Arrangement.” DL needs to move on, as it and every other major carrier has benefited from its fair share of public handouts in various forms. This coming from someone with a DL employee in the household!

  4. Fantastic for AA flyers? Only those who live in Atlanta or who buy a positioning flight and are willing to exit security, wait for their luggage, lug it back to check in and reclear security.

    Thanks- it’s good to know anyway, just wouldn’t characterize it as fantastic.

  5. My apologies, you didn’t say fantasti, just super useful. I can’t quibble with that characterization; not sure where I got “fantastic” from. Must be pent up AS rage posting from the runway on my 4th delayed AA flight in a row (in fairness, 2 were weather)

  6. @Michael Wow, such an adult and mature comment. It’s so cute that you even believe that you are in the right! And no Daniel and Meh, incorrect, unless you are talking about Apple. Delta’s effective tax rate was 35%…and tax rates are irrelevant if you are government owned, since you’re just paying yourself! But go ahead and keep telling yourself how great of a person you are for driving a hybrid and boycotting Chick fil A, all the while supporting the economies of oppressive hateful zealots. Kisses. 🙂

  7. It’s hysterical when people have a haughty ‘Globalist’ mindset…except in certain situations. “Globalism with an asterisk.” What should infuriate everyone is when a U.S. airline tries to stand in the way of foreign flag carriers who wish to fly routes that they themselves have no interest in.

  8. So you guys know what app or website he used to show business class availability?

    Thanks in advance.

  9. @WR

    That’s quite an impressive strawman you’ve crafted there. Careful you don’t take it near any open flames.

  10. @Ben
    Explain to me how I employed the strawman fallacy? I responded directly to the claims of previous posters, and gave evidence and reasons why their claims were false. I’m not sure you know what a strawman argument is. Are you talking about the remark about telling yourself you’re a good person? That wasn’t a strawman, silly boy, that was an insult.

  11. @WR

    Which of the posters you were replying to mentioned anything about driving a hybrid, boycotting Chik-Fil-A, and patting themselves on the back for doing so?

  12. This blog and some others allow users to post anonymously, but there are some, such at TPG, that require posters to register with their actual identity. On the blogs where people have to register with their identity, or when its posted on Facebook and you can see who the person is, EVERY time someone accuses the ME3 of being monopolies who aren’t competing fairly, they work for one of the US carriers, almost always Delta. So, WR, I have no doubt that is the case here as well, though you will deny it, but none of us will believe you. I know this because NO ONE cares about this issue but US airline employees! The general population doesn’t care about the ME3 and their alleged unfair practices (because they aren’t unfair, it’s business), the US carriers have screwed customers for years and continue to offer terrible products and if that hurts them then GREAT, that is what competition is all about. I can vote with my dollars and I am doing just that, I have no sympathy for Delta and its false claims, get a better product if you want to compete.

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