Qatar Airways’ Eric Odone talks:
- Increasing U.S. service from two to six destinations
- When business travel could return
- Rebuilding traveler confidence
Over the next few weeks, Qatar Airways will increase service to the United States. The carrier had maintained service to Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago, and on Friday, it will resume flights to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. On July 1, it will resume service to Boston, Los Angeles and Washington Dulles. Eric Odone, Qatar Airways SVP for the Americas, spoke with BTN transportation editor Michael B. Baker about the carrier’s demand expectations and new measures in place to combat the spread of Covid-19.
BTN: What makes the timing right to bring back U.S. service now?
Eric Odone: We never stopped flying. We’ve been collecting data, feedback and information from customers all along the pandemic. We’ve taken 160,000 passengers to the U.S., and 2,000 of them were on special charters, and we’ve done charters from the U.S. to abroad. We are always pretty dependent on airspace opening throughout the world, but we’ve noticed [that when] they did, we’ve seen a spike in traffic right away. That led us to believe there’s a real demand, so we’ve had a first round of flights that we reintroduced and put into the system and tested the water, and the demand was there, so we thought we’d put in more. We haven’t seen a lot of business travel obviously, and we haven’t seen a lot of leisure travel either. But the volume is still massive, and it’s a different purpose of travel. Some of them have been stuck for weeks and weeks, and we provide them a way to go home. It’s provided us with a mission. It wasn’t flying for flying. We never reduced our