Qatar Airways’ crews have been lauded by passengers and governments for repatriating thousands of travellers stranded by the coronavirus aviation shutdown.
Experts say Doha is hoping that by carrying on flying when regional competitors are grounded, it’ll score diplomatic points in an ongoing confrontation with its neighbours.
The Gulf state has drawn on the logistics baptism of fireplace it endured in 2017 when its erstwhile regional allies abruptly sealed borders and airspace to Qatari travellers and trade, in an exceedingly damaging blockade that forced it to adapt and innovate.
While Qatar Airways is just operating 35 percent of its normal services, it’s used spare capacity to hold 17,000 people on almost 60 special charter services for countries with stranded citizens.
Germany, France and Britain have all publicly directed citizens to fly home on the Gulf airline and praised Qatar on social media.
One Sydney posted images of its citizens flashing victory signs and giving the thumbs-up as they checked sure their flight from Perth to Paris.
Qatar Airways has also evacuated US diplomats and other nations’ government agency staff from Iraq.
“It serves Qatar’s image as a connector and go-between… bring(ing) material and people to where it is needed,” said Professor Andreas Krieg
“It scores diplomatic points and reiterates how important it is for the rest of the world to provide Qatar with access to airspace and freedom to fly,” he added.
However, there was criticism of the airline on social media at the beginning of the month from travellers stuck in New Zealand that the sole flight option for those not on a special repatriation flight was a $10,000 business fare.
Social media has delivered valuable publicity for a rustic that’s still pushing ahead with building stadia and infrastructure for hosting the 2022 tournament, even during the coronavirus lockdown.
A video went viral of stranded French citizens applauding their repatriation flight crew, while a British minister tweeted his relief that 45,000 citizens had flown home with Qatar Airways.