- Tuesday, June 4, 2019

A generation ago the word Cadillac became synonymous with excellence. When someone was trying to describe the very best of a certain category there was no greater compliment than to be labeled “the Cadillac of desk chairs,” or “the Cadillac of kitchen appliances.” The category didn’t matter, the comparison to Cadillac did.

Today, Qatar Airways could be described as the Cadillac of world airlines, except even that description doesn’t do justice to the unparalleled level of excellence achieved by QA. Qatar Airways has been named ‘World’s Best Airline’ by Skytrax and year after year consistently ranks at the top in multiple categories from a variety of sources.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker says, “This is due in large part to the strong and lasting partnership we have built with American companies, including Boeing, Gulfstream, GE, Honeywell and others, who have been instrumental in helping us deliver the high-quality product for which we are known to our passengers around the world. Together with our American partners, we will continue to help strengthen the global aviation industry and America’s economy.”

Among the 2018 Qatar Airways awards:

•World’s Best Business Class - Skytrax Awards

•Best Business Class Seat - Skytrax Awards

•Best First Class Airline Lounge - Skytrax Awards

•Best Airline in the Middle East - Skytrax Awards

•World’s Best Business Class - TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards

Four times Qatar Airways has been given Airline of the Year Award by Skytrax. Not bad for a company that was only founded just over twenty years ago.

Qatar Airways has an important message for America, “Our success is also America’s shared success.” That’s quite a statement coming from the airline generally considered as the best on earth.

When Qatar Airways launched as a new carrier in the mid-1990s their CEO laid out what he felt at the time was a bold path. In his very first interview he confidently predicted QA would have a 35 aircraft fleet serving 35 destinations. Fast forward to 2019 and the world’s premier airline has exceeded all expectations. The fleet currently has 252 aircraft. They are serving 180 passenger destinations. They also serve 63 cargo destinations, which other than UPS and FedEx is more cargo stops than any other carrier on earth.

The national carrier of the State of Qatar is one of the world’s fastest-growing airlines, operating one of the youngest fleets. According to Al Baker they are on a pace to take delivery of new aircraft in the immediate future at an average of one every ten days.

Qatar Airways proudly points to independently-gathered data that documents the airline’s robust $91.8 billion investment in the American economy through its huge American-made aircraft orders. The award-winning airline also directly supports 123,000 American jobs and flies 3.1 million visitors to the US annually visitors who helped pump an extra $4 billion into the US economy in one year alone.

The Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive says “We are very proud of the investment we have made, and continue to make every year, in the US economy. Our 332 American-made aircraft are testament to the faith we have in America, and in American-made products.

Not only is their service world-class, Qatar Airways has been financially successful as well. In fiscal year 2016/2017 the airline reported a profit of $540 million.

In June of 2017 however, a Saudi-led coalition of Middle Eastern countries abruptly severed diplomatic ties with Qatar. Borders were closed. Trade was cut off. Qatar Airways was forced to drop 18 regional routes to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, including 20 flights daily to Dubai. Worse yet, Qatar Airways was blocked from using the airspace over their neighboring countries.

The result of the closed airspace was long detours, extending flight times in some cases by more than an hour. Al Baker says on average, every flight, every day now takes 22 minutes longer. The blockade thus costs Qatar Airways more in aircraft fuel, in crew expenses, and in flight hours on aircraft engines and parts. The net effect is that Qatar Airways experienced significant losses for the 2017/2018 fiscal year.

They have not sat idly by however. Almost immediately following the onset of the Gulf crisis, Qatar implemented visa-free travel for over 80 nationalities. This was done to encourage more tourism and increase transfers at Doha’s Hamad International Airport (DOH). QA released a video entitled “No borders, only horizons” denouncing the isolation imposed by its neighbors. The video subsequently went viral, accumulating over 54 million views.

Losing the 18 Middle East routes initially forced the carrier to ground some aircraft. If a plane isn’t flying it isn’t generating revenue so Qatar Airways pursued growth elsewhere, introducing 14 new routes since the beginning of the blockade. The new routes include Dublin, Nice, Prague, Sarajevo, Kiev, St. Petersburg, Skopje, and Thessaloniki in Europe; Chiang Mai, Pattaya, and Penang in Asia; Adana and Sohar in the Near East; and Canberra in Australia.

Despite the unique challenges caused by the Gulf Crisis, Qatar Airways continues to expand it routes and services, all while maintaining the award-winning levels in everything from cabin service to food and beverage, to airport lounges and in-flight seat comfort.

Al Baker sums it up, “From its inception twenty years ago, Qatar Airways has taken a leading role in setting the standard for quality international travel. It remains one of our principal goals two decades later.” His hunger to perpetually be the best is palpable and the result is readily evident to anyone who travels Qatar Airways.

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