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Which Luxury Airlines Are Facing Their “Darkest Period in History?”

Which Luxury Airlines Are Facing Their “Darkest Period in History?”
Joe Cortez

Two of the “Middle East Three” are taking extreme measures to stay in business, with one calling it its “Darkest Period in History.” Emirates is making significant changes to their schedule, while Qatar Airways is grounding their Airbus A380 fleet while seeking reparations from neighboring countries.

Known for their opulence and attention to detail, the “Middle East Three” are among some of the most admired airlines in the world. However, not all may be what it seems, as two of the carriers are making cuts to stay aloft during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both Emirates and Qatar Airways say they will make shifts to keep in business when passenger demand is at a historic low.

Qatar Airways Grounds All A380s, Seeking Reparations From Neighboring Countries

At Qatar Airways, normally outspoken chief executive Akbar Al-Baker is much quieter lately, noting the toll COVID-19 has taken on his airline. The airline decided to ground their fleet of 10 Airbus A380 aircraft at the beginning of the pandemic, while still flying 79 of their composite-body airframes.

“It is painful to see that what we have built up since 1997—a fleet of more than 250 aircraft—half of our fleet is grounded,” Al-Baker said during an Aviation Week webinar. “We have had to lay off so many employees who have worked so hard for us. It is the darkest period for our airline.”

During the webinar, Al-Baker also took credit for being the first airline to use passenger aircraft for cargo flights, and being the largest international airline during the second quarter of 2020 by serving 70 destinations.

Yet the airline isn’t satisfied with their current progress. On Wednesday, July 22, 2020, the airline announced they would take action against Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The airline claims the four nations conspired to create an “illegal air, sea and land blockade against Qatar.” The airline wants a total of $5 billion from all four nations in reparations.

“After more than three years of efforts to resolve the crisis amicably through dialogue yielded no results, we have taken the decision to issue Notices of Arbitration and pursue all legal remedies to protect our rights and secure full compensation for the violations,” Al-Baker said in a press release. “The blockading states must be held accountable for their illegal actions in the aviation sector, which includes a failure to comply with their obligations under bilateral agreements, multilateral agreements and international law.”

Emirates Cuts Schedule, Looking Towards 2022 Revival

Dubai-based carrier Emirates is planning to cut a number of flights due to the novel Coronavirus, including one-third of flights to the United Kingdom. Britain’s The Independent reports starting Oct. 1, 2020, Emirates will only fly one daily flight to London Gatwick Airport (LGW) operating an Airbus A380, while London Stansted Airport (STN) will only daily flight with the Boeing 777.

In a May interview with Financial Times, airline chief executive Sir Tim Clark noted that the airline’s full fleet may not fly again until 2022, noting other projections that the airline industry won’t recover for years. He also committed to the airline operating the recently discontinued Airbus A380, hinting at the idea they would keep their entire fleet of 115 airframes.

“We’re not getting rid of any of them [the A380s] apart from I think three that are coming out and nine 777s that were scheduled to come out this year,” Clark said. He continued to note that the superjumbo airframe still has a “place in the Emirates international network on the scale it has before. Albeit not today or fully next year, but the year after I think there will be a place for it and I think it is going to be extremely popular.”

View Comments (2)


  1. steviebaby

    July 24, 2020 at 2:01 am

    This is rather a vague description of the situation.
    Firstly EK is practically bankrupt and the remaining balance NOT already owned by the big brother down the road has just been taken.
    EY has been in financial trouble since the last 5 years, having lost more than 5 Billion dollars in that period, not solely in operations but in crazy ludicrous investments such as Alitalia. Jet India, Air Berlin and Air Seychelles.
    However AD is rich, so EY will survive, but as can be seen by any passenger, they are no longer a boutique 5* airline. Their service is on a par with BA so perhaps only 3.5 to 4*.
    QR which imho is the best of the ME3, certainly in service, will also survive as their owners are also extremely rich. They have stood down the A380s, so what – they have a good broad range of airframes which enables them to adapt the needs of any route by lowering or raising the number of seats offered.
    EK only has A380- and B773s so they are in trouble, which is why I hear they have taken over LCC Fly Dubai completely. It was already DXB Govt, so nothing really changes except the service onboard and then possibly repainting the B738s, when they find some cash.
    QR also planned a LCC branch a few years ago called Maha Airways, but it was shelved and those A320’s delivered (maybe 6 or 8 frames) were absorbed into mainline service and repainted. However they are still noticeable to passengers by their lack of IFE system and rather basic seating and interiors.

  2. steviebaby

    July 24, 2020 at 2:04 am

    I think you are also forgetting two very luxury airlines and with much more history behind them than the ME3.
    We are talking about Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines.
    The former being in real trouble due also to political interference..

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