The CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker, is hopeful that flights to the UAE and Bahrain will restart soon, following the recent lifting of the blockade by its Gulf neighbours.
Bahrain, UAE and Saudi Arabia reopened their airspace to Qatar following the signing of an agreement at the 41st annual summit of the GCC.
The flag carrier has already resumed flights to Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam in Saudi Arabia as well as Egypt and is looking to relaunch more Gulf flights.
In an interview with CNN’s Richard Quest, Al Baker said the reopening of airspace, which was previously blocked during a regional dispute, has made a huge difference to the carrier, in terms of operational costs.
"We saved nearly two hours and 40 minutes flying to San Paulo each way. Khartoum will be only three and a half hours instead of seven hours. Lagos, we will save nearly an hour and a half. So, yes it will make a big impact for our operational costs," he said.
In the interview, Al Baker also blamed the lack of coordination from governments and organisations across the travel and tourism industry for the challenges airlines are currently facing
Speaking on Quest Means Business, Al Baker said: "Because each government is putting out regulations in piece meal - there is no proper coordination. And I also blame the organisations like IATA, AACO and the WHO for not getting together and coming back with a policy that is imposed as a standard for all of the countries to follow - including a travel pass which IATA is now working on. This should be standardised and recognised all across the world. Only by doing this, and stopping this quarantine issue, which is again implemented in a very haphazard way - which is really affecting and eroding the confidence with the travellers because nobody knows from a day to the next what would be the regulations. And the authorities are running around like headless chicken immediately panicking as soon as they see that the figures of infections are rising. If they're implementing these things correctly, they will mitigate the reason for them to do what they're doing."
Al Baker said that protecting passengers is the absolute priority, highlighting the carrier's rigorous hygiene and safety measures
"We have the UV system that we use in airplanes. We hold a very large number of them. And every single aircraft, every 24 hours, it is completely disinfected using the UV. We have robots that go around the airport, we have contactless check-in areas and boarding Gates. We have done everything including the PPE that our crew wear, the way we are delivering and catering to the airplane. So, we have gone through the entire process to make sure that we have done our utmost to protect our passengers."
When asked about the future of the airline industry as a result of the coronavirus crisis, he added: "I think if this prolongs, I'm expecting there will be some big airlines that would really need a massive state aid to stay afloat or else they will have to shut their doors."