Gulf airline Qatar Airways is expanding its network in the Philippines to 13 flights per week with the addition of a new route to Cebu, the host of Routes Asia 2019.
The oneworld alliance member began a 3X-weekly route from Doha’s Hamad International (DOH) to Mactan-Cebu International (CEB) on July 24 using Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. Service is initially scheduled until Oct. 23.
The route, which returns to the airline’s network after an eight-year absence, had been earmarked to start in April, but the launch was delayed because of the coronavirus crisis.
Cebu, the second-largest city in the Philippines, becomes the third destination in the country to be served by Qatar Airways. The carrier already operated 9X-weekly to the capital Manila (MNL) and 1X-weekly to Clark (CRK). With the addition of CEB, Qatar offers about 9,400 weekly two-way seats to the country.
Qatar Airways becomes the second of the ME3 carriers to serve CEB, with Emirates already operating a Dubai (DXB)-CEB-CRK-DXB circular service. Emirates began the Boeing 777-300ER-operated route in March 2016.
As well as launching flights to CEB, Guangzhou (CAN) returns to Qatar Airways’ network from July 26 as the airline continues to rebuild its network following the COVID-19 crisis. The route from DOH will initially be 1X-weekly.
“The resumption of Guangzhou passenger services is one of the significant steps taken by Qatar Airways to demonstrate our confidence in the gradual recovery of the regional travel market and global connectivity,” Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said.
“In addition to scheduled freighter services, we have also operated a large number of charters and freight-only passenger aircraft to meet China’s surging demand for imports and exports.
“With the resumption of passenger flights, we will have 49 flights in total, comprising of passenger freighters, belly-hold cargo flights and freighters in and out of Mainland China each week, providing more than 2,500 tonnes of weekly cargo capacity each way.”
By the end of July, the airline’s network will expand to 450 weekly flights to more than 70 destinations. Weekly capacity will be about 340,000 seats, equivalent to approximately 35% of the capacity offered during the same week a year ago.
Speaking on an Aviation Week Network webinar earlier this week, Al Baker said that demand would take between three to five years to return to 2019 levels. However, he asserted that the industry will recover from the shock of coronavirus.
“People may hesitate to travel for the time being, because the problem of COVID is still fresh in their minds, but we had the same situation after 9/11 when people are afraid to fly on an aeroplane.
“We heard that there would be a long-term reduction in air travel, but it went the other way after a couple of years of depression. I think the same thing will happen now.
“The only thing is that, with the reduction of capacity and the bankruptcy of so many airlines, there will be a global shortage of capacity in the near-term.”
Watch the full webinar here
Photo credit: Nigel Howarth / Aviation Week Network