To read Part 1 of the in-depth look of the current situation of Qatar Airways, please read the article here:

With the Saudi-led blockade continuing on since 2017, Qatar Airways has little room to wiggle. Yet the airline, in part, needs to grow, with a global mega-event and Doha's Hamad International Airport (DOH) expansion coming up. So, despite the blockade, what moves has Qatar Airways done?

It is clear that one way or another, the Qatari aviation industry, including its airline and the main airport in Doha, is not looking to sit in one place. With a massive backlog of 300 aircraft for Qatar Airways, including options, and a plan to expand the capacity of Hamad International Airport (DOH) to facilitate 60 million passengers per year by 2022, the country wants to become a powerhouse in the aviation industry.

Current geopolitical events, namely the Gulf country blockade of Qatar, are hindering the aforementioned growth. However, seemingly, the problems do not end there.

With a massive gap between passenger traffic at Hamad International and tourists that actually visit the country and a confusing fleet of various current and incoming aircraft, where does the carrier go next?

Blockade losses

One of the most crucial goals for Qatar and its flag carrier is to restore economic relations between the state and its neighbors. Without getting into the nitty-gritty of economic impact on the country as a whole, for Qatar Airways, the blockade meant losses of some of its most mature and high-demand routes.

For example, in May 2015, the Doha-based airline announced a special shuttle service between Hamad International (DOH) and Dubai’s two airports, Dubai International (DXB) and Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC), with the goal to reduce travel time between the two cities and to increase convenience for passengers. The shuttle ran 18 times a day, with 14 daily flights to DXB and four to DWC. 

Furthermore, on July 16, 2015, Emirates announced that for the first time ever, a scheduled Airbus A380 flight landed in Doha. According to the press release, the double-decker was at full capacity.

“In its first seven months of operations, Emirates has carried over 430,000 passengers to and from Doha. Emirates serves Doha with seven daily services.”

But Dubai is not the only mature route that Qatar Airways lost after the blockade started in June 2017. The Centre for Aviation (CAPA) highlights that throughout a six-day period between April 24 and April 30, 2017, the largest routes by capacity on the airline’s network also included flights between Doha and King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) and King Fahd International Airport (DMM) both in Saudi Arabia as well as Bahrain International Airport (BAH) in Bahrain. Thus, with flights to Dubai (DXB), out of the 10 largest routes by capacity, the airline lost four of them.

Replacement routes

Coming up with replacement connections to other than Gulf countries is no easy task, especially considering the unique situation of the country. Nevertheless, Qatar Airways still tries to elevate demand out of Doha by opening up routes to popular tourist destinations. For example, in preparation for Summer 2020, the airline announced new leisure routes to leisure destinations on December 16, 2019, including Santorini, Greece, and Dubrovnik, Croatia. Previously, the airline inaugurated routes to other holiday destinations such as Langkawi, Malaysia, in 2019.