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Exclusive: Qatar hits 97% seats full as COVID gamble pays off

written by Adam Thorn | October 4, 2022

Qatar Airways Airbus A350-1000 A7-ANJ at Sydney Airport. (Seth Jaworski)

Qatar Airway’s decision to continue flying during the pandemic appears to have paid off as the airline saw 97 per cent of its seats full during July.

During the pandemic, the airline briefly became the world’s largest global carrier and even increased capacity into Australia in March 2020 as rivals ground aircraft.

Now new BITRE data released from the Department of Infrastructure shows its ‘seat utilisation’ was 97 per cent on inbound services from the nation’s major airport into Australia, and 92 per cent on the reverse.

That data was based on 165 inbound flights and 162 outbound services carrying nearly 110,000 passengers.

Qatar launched a major global campaign pledging to take people “home” during the pandemic, with one advertising video claiming, “Where others are stepping away, we remain by your side to get you to where you need to go.”


“We are not taking advantage,” wrote CEO Akbar Al Baker at the start of the pandemic.

“This is a time to serve people who want to be with their loved ones in a very trying time.”

Qantas stopped all commercial operations from April 2020 until November 2021 and CEO Alan Joyce later estimated the cost of the pandemic on his business was $7 billion, which he called “staggering”.

Australia shut its border and prevented any Australian citizens or residents from leaving, before later introducing arrival caps for those wishing to return.

The country only later opened up in stages, first allowing residents and citizens to fly in November 2021, before opening to students, backpackers, and skilled migrants shortly after.

Finally, the country welcomed vaccinated tourists in February before dropping the controversial mandate in July.

Overall, international passenger traffic in July 2022 was 2.057 million, still significantly down on the 3.736 million in pre-pandemic July 2019.

Australian Aviation previously reported how Qantas’ new seasonal service from Rome to Perth has likely become one of the most successful in the airline’s history after it saw 98 per cent of seats full during July.

The Sydney-Perth-Rome flights launched on 22 June with 787-9 Dreamliners and will operate three times a week until 6 October 2022.

New BITRE data from the Department of Infrastructure shows its ‘seat utilisation’ was 97.7 per cent on inbound services and 91.9 per cent on outbound services.

Upon launch, it was also the only direct service between Australia and continental Europe.

Customers were able to combine the Rome flights with the Flying Kangaroo’s double-daily direct flights between Australia and London, meaning they could fly in and out of different cities on one return ticket through to October 2022.

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