It is unfortunate that the World’s best Airline of 2017 belongs to a country in the midst of a global political crisis. This has overshadowed this amazing achievement for the national airline of the tiny country of Qatar. My blog this week aims to shine some light on the rather impressive Qatar Airways.
It was during the glitz and glamour of the ‘Oscars of the aviation industry’ that Skytrax bestowed Qatar Airways with the prestigious title of the World’s best Airline of 2017 in Paris last week. The award comes as the Qatari airline struggles to deal with the ramifications of its neighbours attempts to isolate the country. If you unaware of the events taking place here is a brief synopsis. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, The UAE and Egypt have severed diplomatic relations as well as imposed sanctions on Qatar over allegations that they are funding terrorist groups. For obvious reasons this has had a negative impact on the countries trade and travel as they have been forced to cancel 52 of their flight routes. To quote Qatar Airlines CEO Akbar Al Baker, “The sky, there should be no borders up here, as an airline we don’t believe in boundaries, we believe in bringing people together” which I absolutely agree with. Despite these recent events the airline is doing very well for itself. Evident from the highest profits in its young history as well as a 20.1% increase in passenger numbers. Akbar Al Baker was quick to point that these figures were double those of the airlines competitors.
A brief history behind the Oryx of the sky. The brand was established in November 1993 and shortly after in January 1994 operation began. CEO at the time Sheikh Hamad Bin Ali Bin Jabor Al Thani employed a total of 75 people to run the airline. At this time Qatar Airways had two Airbus A310s serving 15 countries. In 1995 two second hand Boeing 747’s were acquired followed later by two more from Air Mauritius in 1996. After increased growth the airline leased a further two Airbus A320’s from Singapore. Qatar Airways brought its cheque book to the 2003 Paris Air Show and the carrier placed an order with Airbus valued at $5.1 billion. This order included two A321’s, fourteen A330’s and two A340-600’s (one of my favourites). The carrier’s strong relationship with Airbus continued over the years as they signed an agreement to purchase 80 A350’s (20 – 800’s, 40 – 900’s and 20 – of the 1000 variants).
In 2006 the airline unveiled their new branding to the world. As the Oryx is the national animal of Qatar it was fitting that it took place on the livery of their aircraft. The now familiar design features ‘Qatar’ written boldly in burgundy on the light grey of the fuselage. Whilst the lower half of the fuselage is white. The tail is adorned with a burgundy Oryx on a grey background. It was in the mid-2000s that the company placed equally large orders with Boeing, valued at well over $13.5 billion for several 787-Dreamliners and all variants of the renowned 777. As of 2017 the Qatar group has 40 000 employees globally, talk about starting from the bottom.
In 2013 the airline joined the third largest global airline alliance – Oneworld (A global alliance aimed at being the first-choice airline alliance for frequent international travellers). Notably, Qatar was the first Arab airline to join. They have quickly grown into one of the leaders in the aviation industry. The company’s recent slogan change to ‘Going places together’ is not only apt in that they serve 150 worldwide destinations but also as they are aggressively expanding their global footprint. Qatar Airways currently sits with a fleet of 196 passenger planes with a staggering 218 on order. As can be seen the fleet includes a wide mix of Airbus and Boeing models. This fast growing fleet is contributing heavily to European and American economies as they are the largest customer of the beautiful Airbus A350 and one of the biggest buyers of the U.S made Boeing 787-Dreamliner. An interesting fact is that the average age of the airline’s fleet is only 5 years old.
The airline garnered much attention from their spectacular first class facilities, which they have won numerous awards for. Such opulence can be seen on their Airbus A380 which includes a totally necessary 26-inch entertainment screen, seats nearly 2-feet wide and privacy partitions. They have just rolled out a new business class seat called the Q Suite designed for privacy or in-flight business meetings – which I’d advise you go have a look at. Another chink in the airlines armour is a superb safety record with Germany’s Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Centre placing it in fourth for safest airline in the world.
How does an airline win best in the world? Skytrax is a UK based consultancy aimed at reviewing airlines and airports around the world. International passengers complete surveys which rate cabin staff, airports, airline lounges, in-flight entertainment and catering along with several other elements. Skytrax also has an online forum in which people can post opinions about a particular airline. Qatar not only won the overall title of World’s Best Airline but also took home the title of Best Business Class, Best First Class Lounge and probably to the annoyance of its neighbours Best Airline in the Middle East. The company has won this admired title four times since 2001. A perennial favourite Singapore Airlines ranked second and this year saw ANA All Nippon Airways enter into the top three for the first time. For the fifth consecutive year Singapore’s Changi Airport has taken Airport of the Year which is why it’s understandably called Singapore’s Jewel – it is truly incredible.
I will always root for an underdog, which Qatar Airways was. They have however fledged into a global icon as the best way to travel internationally. I have not been fortunate enough to travel on this respected airline – yet. I look forward to the day I can say I have experienced just how special the World’s Best Airline really is. I sincerely hope these difficult times in the Middle East do not tarnish the reputation this brand has built for itself over such a short time. I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and would love to hear about your experiences flying with Qatar Airways.