Qatar Airways will have to seek government support eventually, Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker told Reuters on Sunday, warning the Middle East carrier could soon run out of cash needed to continue flying.
Several states have already stepped in to help airlines that have seen demand decimated almost overnight by the coronavirus outbreak, with the U.S. offering $58 billion in aid.
Qatar Airways is one of few airlines continuing to maintain scheduled commercial passenger services and over the next two weeks expects to operate 1,800 flights.
“We have received many requests from governments all over the world, embassies in certain countries, requesting Qatar Airways not to stop flying,” Baker said by phone from Doha.
The state-owned carrier is operating flights to Europe, Asia and Australia, ferrying passengers home who have been left stranded by the pandemic that has seen many countries close their borders.
“We will fly as long as it is necessary and we have requests to get stranded people to their homes, provided the airspace is open and the airport are open,” Baker said. However, he warned the airline was burning through cash and only had enough to sustain operations for a “very short period of time.”
“We will surely go to our government eventually for equity.”
“We have adjusted operations. There is still demand regarding the repatriation business,” the carrier’s Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer Thierry Antinori told Agence France-Presse (AFP) Friday, describing its services as the “last lifeline” for many. He declined to comment on the prospect of staff layoffs but said employees have been offered unpaid leave.
Authorities across the Middle East have taken draconian measures to curb the outbreak, closing airports and halting passenger flights, and bringing major hubs like Dubai and Abu Dhabi to a standstill.
The Arab Air