Middle Eastern rivalry: Qatar Airways and Emirates endless dance

Qatar Airways and Emirates go head-to-head in rebuilding their previous network sizes in the wake of COVID-19’ initial wave.

The two Middle Eastern giants, Qatar Airways and Emirates, mid-July 2020 have showcased increasing competitiveness, going back and forth to take the top network position. Looking at the last 30 days of airlines’ press releases for comparison, from July 15, 2020, to August 13, 2020, Qatar has reopened 16 of its previous destinations while Emirates topped that with a total of 20 of its own. As of August 13, 2020, Qatar’s total network connects 80 destinations against the Emirates’ 75.

Interestingly, there are some overlapping similarities when it comes to network expansion of the Middle Eastern juggernauts. Collectively, both Qatar Airways and Emirates have reopened eight exact same destinations to Malé, Addis Ababa, Cebu, Clark, Guangzhou, Nairobi, Houston and Lisbon. At the same time, the date range of airlines’ announcements about reinstating said destinations falls no more than six calendar days apart, while statements about Malé and Addis Ababa were virtually released on the same day.

Moreover, on August 9, 2020, the Emirates have said to be resuming flight to Peshawar, while also ramping up its weekly Pakistan services to 60 flights. In parallel, on August 10, 2020, Qatar’s press release announced an increase in weekly Pakistan flights to a total of 49.

With the first wave of COVID-19 slowly receding, the borders have consequently opened up, allowing carriers to reintroduce their international services. At the same time, an overwhelming majority of airlines have reported record losses in the first two quarters of FY2020. IATA estimates that international and domestic flights will only return to pre-COVID levels by the end of 2024.


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