With the June 1 start of its Atlanta-Doha non-stops rapidly approaching, Qatar Airways is drawing some new venom from Delta.
Delta and other big U.S. international carriers have been engaged in a war of words with the Big Three Middle Eastern airlines for months over the latter’s ambitious route expansion into U.S. gateways. Claiming that their Mideastern rivals are dumping excess capacity into this market, the U.S. companies have also mounted a lobbying campaign urging the U.S. Government to block that expansion.
The latest salvo came from Delta President Glen Hauenstein during an earnings call with analysts this week. According to a report in Forbes, Hauenstein charged that there’s no way Qatar can make money on the Atlanta-Doha route, claiming that passenger demand between those two cities is fewer than five people a day, not counting connecting traffic.
The U.S. legacy airlines contend that Middle Eastern carriers like Qatar, Emirates and Etihad don’t need to make a profit on their operations because they are subsidized by their governments.
If Delta is right about traffic levels between ATL and Qatar, there are some clear benefits for business travelers. For one thing, a lack of demand means fares should be relatively low. Currently, fares for June roundtrip flights between ATL and Doha are running about $1,250 for economy and $4,800 in business class. Flights to onward destinations in India and Africa are relatively good bargains, too.
And for another, Qatar has a frequent flyer partnership with American, so award seats on that route should be plentiful for AAdvantage members with sufficient miles.
Qatar Airways is on a big U.S. expansion binge this year. Besides the new Atlanta non-stops – which will use a 777-200LR – the airline kicked off new Los Angeles flights in January and recently added a second daily New York flight and new Boston non-stops.
Still no word on if or when Qatar Airways will launch nonstops to SFO— currently it is served by Emirates (A380) and Etihad (new Etihad aircraft coming this month, replacing Jet Airways). And with Air India recently adding nonstops, the SFO-Middle East-India market is pretty saturated.
Would you fly Qatar Airways to the Middle East or beyond? Why or why not? Please leave your comments below.
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