In Focus

Customers will remember us as the airline they can trust

The state of Qatar may be controversial, but its airline has won the hearts and minds of millions of customers by continuing to take stranded passengers home during the pandemic. Here, Adam Thorn asks Qatar Airways’ new vice president of the Pacific region, Tom Scruby, why his business soldiered on while its rivals shrivelled into hibernation.

As first-day-at-the-office anecdotes go, Tom Scruby’s takes some beating. The fresh-faced Brit arrived in Melbourne to take up his new job overseeing Qatar’s APAC region on 11 May and immediately had to endure unglamorous hotel quarantine. But being locked in a room was the least of his problems. Qatar Airways was bang in the middle of being perhaps the only airline in the world to stubbornly refuse to scale down. In fact, in some areas, such as Australia, it was expanding.

Scruby was appointed to the new role in May 2020. Source: Qatar

It would be a logistical nightmare during normal times, but Scruby and his team had to jump a bewildering list of hurdles such as complex border restrictions, negotiating with government embassies and working out quite how to fly passengers and staff safely. To date, he beams, the business has taken more than 1.8 million passengers home. Qatar, once a minnow in our industry, is now quite comfortably the biggest airline in the world. In Australia alone, it holds a near 45 per cent market share of international flights, compared with Qantas’ now paltry 2.9 per cent. The new normal, then, has a new undisputed champion.

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