We caught up with Qatar Airways (QR) Regional Manager Australasia Cassandra Kerr to get the inside scoop on five years of flying from Sydney, maintaining a consistent and invaluable repatriation service through the pandemic and what comes next for the Doha based carrier.
In many ways, Qatar Airways have become the unsung aviation heroes in Australia throughout the pandemic thanks largely to their continued service in being one of the major airlines to repatriate thousands of stranded Aussies and get them safely home.
So as the Doha based carrier reaches the five-year milestone of flying from Sydney, they are now banking on more arrival caps being lifted and hopefully, a return to flying at capacity again to connect Australians with the world.
We got the lowdown from Cassandra Kerr on her experience of the last twelve months for Qatar Airways, and what we can look forward to next.
Tell us a little bit more about your Australian operations and five years flying in and out of Sydney.
“Sydney was our third Australian market for Qatar Airways, after Melbourne and Perth. We first started operations in early March 2016, with a daily service operated by a Boeing 777-300ER.
“Since our launch into Sydney, we’ve carried over 1.6 million passengers on this route alone – buoyed with strong load factors we even upgraded our service to a daily A380 in September 2016, and added a second-daily flight (that continued on to Canberra) in February 2018.
“It was also our first Australian destination to fly with our award-winning Business Class product, Qsuite, in July 2018.”
How has the pandemic affected your operations?
“Obviously 2020 was a huge year of changes for all of us. At Qatar Airways, the COVID-19 pandemic saw us rapidly evolve to suit changing border restrictions, advice from health officials and various government rules.
“We’ve also made several changes to our network over the last 12 months. At the peak of our repatriation efforts, while many airlines suspended operations Qatar Airways added an additional 28 weekly flights (approximately 48,000 extra seats) on top of our regular 21 weekly flights during April.
“Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve helped carry over 250,000 Australians home, including 92,000 to and from Sydney alone.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do this without the help of the trade, so in a sense we are very thankful to know that they, and their clients, knew that they could rely on us during the pandemic or to help get them where they need to be.”
What’s been your biggest success (or challenge that you overcame) in the past year?
The biggest challenge to overcome was of course the COVID-19 crisis, but that led to our biggest successes.
We are proud to have been one of the few airlines to never stop services to Australia, and have helped carry over 250,000 Australians and international passengers home during the pandemic.
We’ve worked closely with governments, embassies and travel companies to operate charters to repatriate stranded travellers. This includes assisting passengers with emergency and compassionate cases ensuring they have first priority to get on a flight home – despite the Australian Government’s restrictions on international arrivals.
Our work with Surrogacy Australia, helping new parents come home with their newborn babies is just one example of this.
Australian Government data from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics showed during the peak of repatriation efforts, our airline helped take home almost ten times more passengers in and out Australia than our nearest competitors.
These flights have also helped maintain vital supply chains for Australian businesses, carrying just over 25,000 tonnes of Australian goods since 1 March 2020.
What are you most looking forward to for 2021?
“I’m looking forward to seeing the Qatar Airways network continue to grow as travel picks up. We’ve been gradually reinstating suspended destinations and additional frequencies in line with the relaxation of entry restrictions around the world.
“I believe travel will steadily return, limited by entry restrictions rather than customer confidence. People will want to travel again, experience the world, and meet friends and family as well as business travel restarting.
“In many ways, the restrictions have made people realise how precious the ability to travel really is and perhaps was taken for granted.
“Although the Qatar Airways network never fell below 30 destinations, we have now rebuilt to more than 800 weekly flights to over 120 destinations across the globe. By the end of March 2021, we’re planning to grow this to over 130 destinations.
“So as we see travel gradually start to bounce back, we’re expecting the trade to be a key part of the industry’s recovery. There are so many passionate people out there wanting to help their clients, and we want to help them too.”
How important is the travel trade to Qatar Airways?
“The travel trade here in Australia have been so critical to our success here in Sydney, and we certainly wouldn’t be here without their support. We’ve seen their client base grow as we continued to expand our global network, and they are very much part of the Qatar Airways family.
“Our relationship with the trade is very much interdependent; we rely on them to sell us, and they rely on us to consistently deliver our award-winning service to their customers.”
What details can you share about your 5-Year Anniversary Sale?
“To celebrate our 5-Years of service to Sydney, we are running special anniversary fares available for a limited time only.” To find out more click here.
“All our customers are also covered under our generous flexibility policy, so they can book today for travel until 31 December 2021. Customers will have unlimited date or destination changes, as well as fee-free refunds if they wish to cancel.”
Find out more: www.qatarairways.com
Share this story