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Qatar and Etihad point to a way forward in commercial aviation strategy

Linus Bauer, a City, University of London Visiting Lecturer in Air Transport Management, says both airlines have a more resilient strategy to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis.
by John Stevenson (Senior Communications Officer)

529817Writing recently in the German financial daily Handelsblatt, City’s Visiting Lecturer in Air Transport Management, Linus Bauer, says Qatar and Etihad airlines may have a better operational strategy to emerge from a crippling coronavirus crisis.

Bauer’s article focuses on the shift in the balance of power of aviation hubs in the Gulf region.

Joint ventures

He addresses the key challenges and weaknesses of Emirates Airlines, for instance, which does not have a mixed fleet structure (restricted to large aircraft such as the B777 and A380), is not a member of an airline alliance, and has not entered into partnerships and joint ventures with other airlines:

“Flying semi-empty A380 around the world is not economically profitable at all. Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways, on the other hand, have a heterogeneous fleet of 100-seater (A319) to 500-seater (A380), and medium-sized, efficient jets such as the A350 or Boeing 787 with less than 350 seats; these can be used more flexibly across the entire route network of both airlines.“

His article also addresses the challenge posed by Dubai Airport’s multi-terminal concourse: with a single terminal structure it is possible for that airport to make a stronger recovery from a crisis such as COVID-19.

Both airports, are modern, single-building terminals, with fast connections. In contrast, the Dubai airport is spread over several terminals and concourses, which will not all be used by 2023. This leads to a lot of downtime and escalating costs.

Bauer, a flight operations expert, also sees Doha and Abu Dhabi's new Midfield Terminal as an advantage:

"The extremely high dependency on transfer traffic is, however, a great danger for each of the successful Gulf airlines. The rate for Qatar Airways is 90 percent, for Emirates and Etihad, it is 65 to 70 percent. Therefore they have to work together with all of their stakeholders to boost local traffic to Gulf cities like Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi for leisure and business."

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