A Qatar 777-300ER receives a water-cannon salute as it taxis to its gate at Sea-Tac Airport
Qatar Airways (QR) launched service from Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, to Seattle, Washington, on Jan. 29, 2021, two months ahead of schedule. It also marked the first new service to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Inaugural flights are always a joy to cover – you get to see other media colleagues and friends, there’s always a bit of a festival atmosphere, and, best of all, you get to go out onto the ramp at a busy international airport to take photos and enjoy the experience of being airside.
The 777 is an imposingly large aircraft
Qatar now serves the three largest cities on the U.S. West Coast: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. The Seattle service will be served by Boeing 777s with 42 seats in Qsuite business class and 312 seats in economy. The Qsuite seat layout is a 1-2-1 configuration, and economy is 3-4-3. Seattle service begins at four times weekly (Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays), and is scheduled to switch to daily service on July 1.
A Qsuite was set up for the occasion – they are quite spacious
The food service was impeccable
Details included custom amenity kits
The new Seattle service will offer connections from the U.S. to global destinations in Africa, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, among others. The national carrier of the State of Qatar continues to rebuild its network, which currently stands at over 120 destinations with plans to increase to more than 130 by the end of March.
Before the inaugural event, I had the opportunity to chat on the phone with Mark Drusch, SVP of Revenue Management, Alliances and Strategy at Qatar Airways, who’s based in Doha.
“We understand that there are Somalis in Seattle who want to go home we know where our customers need to fly. We have flown a robust schedule even in the depths of covid, so we’ve had our finger on the pulse of the market and have been able to accurately gauge the movements that are required,” he said, citing strong pent-up demand for travel to East Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent.
Further, covid has opened up a wave of interest in travel to exotic/under-visited destinations. “We have got a massive developing market between the U.S. and more exotic beach destinations like the Seychelles,” Drusch said. ‘People want to go someplace a little more isolated, and that market has developed quite nicely.”
He also cited the attractiveness for the airline of the strong business environment in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. “This area has not had a problem during the pandemic,” he said, adding that “the Pacific Northwest will rebound faster because of the kinds of businesses we have up here.”
The 77W’s cargo hold was filled with containers. Qatar flies the large jets, in part, to maximize its cargo-handling opportunities.
Cargo is the one aviation sector that has seen growth since the emergence of COVID-19. “Our cargo market has just boomed during the pandemic. We are the largest passenger/freighter operation in the world, we were experts already in carrying cargo on freighters and passenger planes, and we’re flying the 773, which has lots of cargo capacity.”
Asked if Qatar sees itself as being in competition with Emirates for connecting passenger traffic, Drush said, “Lets be honest – the airline industry is very competitive, but we’ve been different than Emirates – they’ve pulled back from the U.S. and Europe. We’ve continued to be in the market for our customers; in the middle of covid we repatriated almost 2 million people.”
The 777-300 cockpit is also quite spacious
Qatar Airways Privilege Club and Alaska Mileage Plan members can now earn frequent flyer miles on both carriers. Beginning March 31, 2021, members can also redeem frequent flyer miles on both carriers’ full networks and elite oneworld Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald status perks, including lounge access.
The departing flight also got a water-cannon salute
Headed back out on the nearly 14-hour flight from SEA-DOH
Of interest to those in the Pacific Northwest who are Alaska Airlines frequent fliers, Qatar is part of the oneworld alliance, which Alaska recently joined. Alaska Airlines will connect customers from the U.S. West Coast to Doha and beyond via its other hubs in Los Angeles and San Francisco, complementing existing strategic partnerships with JetBlue and oneworld carrier American Airlines.
Brand-new Air Italy 737 MAX 8 looking sharp – Photo: Air Italy
This past Friday, Air Italy received their first 737 MAX 8 aircraft at a delivery ceremony at Paine Field in Everett, WA. Dignitaries from Air Italy were joined by his Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, Group CEO for Qatar Airways. In July of 2016, Qatar Airways agreed to purchase a 49% stake in the airline (known previously as Meridiana), with the brand being re-launched as Air Italy in March 2018. As with any event involving Mr. Al Baker, this was a fancy affair, and included a few priceless soundbites.
When the Air Italy brand launched earlier this year, they announced their goal to disrupt the Italian market, and create a ’œcredible alternative’ for Italians. From their home base of Milan’“Malpensa Airport, Air Italy intends to offer both short- and long-haul routes. The airline will shortly be launching flights to the United States, with a daily service to New York (begins 6/1) and four-times-per-week service to Miami (starts 6/8). The next planned long-haul destinations for Air Italy are Bangkok and Mumbai, with service start dates yet to be announced.
#nomnom says the Qatar Airways 747-8F
What other airline delivery event will bring up Trump and “fake news”? Where the CEO says that the US3 (United, American, and Delta) need to “shut up and mind their own business”? And where no one is surprised by any of these comments? Qatar Airways of course!
These fancy tail things are to for me! Kinda want some for my living room.
Last week, Qatar Airways took delivery of their first Boeing 747-8F, and I was excited to go. Not just to see the airplane, but to once again hear what Akbar Al Baker might say. He is known for speaking his mind and providing some entertaining sound bites.
Zodiac calls this the Fusio. Image: Zodiac Aerospace.
A couple of days ago at ITB in Berlin, Qatar Airways announced that they were finally going to do something about their aircraft not configured with the B/E Super Diamond or even the humble B/E Diamond (AKA their 777 fleet). Instead, they announced that they were also going to replace the amazing B/E Super Diamonds on their 787, A350, and A380 as well. Whatever they were going to do was described as a product rivaling first class. Thanks to Alan Joyce at Qantas, who describes the Thompson Vantage XL as a “mini-first class” my hopes were damped. A few days before ITB, I discovered some curious images on Zodiac’s website (above).
B/E Super Diamond business class seat on the Qatar A350 – Photo: Blaine Nickeson | AirlineReporter
Now, I know some people have said that B/E Aerospace is the supplier of what Qatar is installing. They might be right, and Qatar hasn’t said. It did give me a starting point to imagine what Qatar was actually doing.
This can be all yours – Photo: AirlineReporter
Do you want to win a Qatar Airways Airbus A380 model? Of course you do! Lucky for you, we have one and we are looking to give it a new home. All you need to do is make sure you are following us on Twitter, and then retweet our contest tweet and you are eligible. The contest will be open until 5:00 p.m. PDT on Friday, August 26th and at that point we will randomly pick from the valid entries. Here, I will make it easy for you with the official tweet below:
Update: CONGRATS to @lauratherad for winning this sweet, sweet model! Stay tuned for our next contest!
(not so) FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Can you please give me more details about the model?
Yes. It is a 1:200-sized model (a.k.a. big — 14.5″ long, 16″ wingspan). I can’t tell who makes it, but it has a fancy wooden stand. It’s registration number is A7-APA, which makes it the 137th A380 built, and it first flew in June 2013.
Wait, is this a used model?
The photo is of my personal model. The one we are giving away is brand new, in box. We can be model buddies.
Who is eligible?
If you have a Twitter account and follow the rules — you are. I will ship it anywhere in the world to the winner.
Does the model actually fly?
I work for Delta, can I win?
Of course. As long as you proudly display it at work.
Does this come with subsidies?
Ha… funny, but no they are not included.
Can you just declare me the winner?
Yes I can. Will I? No.
I don’t have Twitter?
That sucks. Sorry, you need to do this on Twitter to win. It’s free to sign up!
Can I enter on Snapchat?
It is a fun app where you can take photos and make yourself a princess or a panda bear that cries rainbows — that work?
Can I just leave a comment on this story?
Sure… I probably will even reply to your comment, but it won’t enter you into the contest.
Can you wish me luck?