MIAMI – Qatar Airways’ (QR) first nonstop flight between the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) and the Hamad International Airport (DOH) in Doha, Qatar’s capital, took off Friday.

The new route will fly four times weekly on QR’s Boeing 777 aircraft and is the first-ever nonstop flight between SEA and Doha. The carrier is also the first new carrier to begin service at SEA since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Photo: Tom Harris

Comments from SEA Airport

“This commitment by Qatar reinforces the resiliency of this market,” Lance Lyttle, the managing director of SEA Airport, told reporters during a press conference on Friday.

“We know you have loved ones to visit, business to do, and trips of a lifetime to experience. The last year was difficult for our airport and our airlines due to the pandemic and its impact on travel. It is incredibly meaningful to have the vision of Qatar launching this new partnership with SEA.” 

Recovery underway at SEA

International travel at SEA had dropped 80% from 2019 to 2020, Lyttle said, but SEA has recovered about half of its pre-pandemic international travel. The Port of Seattle is also building a new International Arrivals Facility (IAF) that will include a 450,000-square-foot hall for baggage claims and customs, expediting entry into the U.S.; an 85-foot-high aerial walkway between the South Satellite and the grand hall, and a new corridor connecting arriving passengers to Concourse A. 

In an interview with Simple Flying, Qatar Airways SVP of Revenue Management, Alliances and Strategy Mark Drusch said Qatar chose the Boeing 777, despite initially envisioning the Airbus A350, for the SEA launch for three reasons: the airlines is already a major Boeing carrier, they expect significant cargo on this route, and they may replace the Boeing 777 with the 787-9 Dreamliners after work is completed in their cabins. 

Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways

Safety in the Air

Qatar Airways does employ a variety of COVID-19 safety protocols, including mandatory masks for everyone except exempted passengers, PPE for all crew members and PPE kits for all passengers, on-board cleaning after every flight, and HEPA air filtration systems. The airline also uses Honeywell’s Ultraviolet Cabin System cleaning technology on all seats and surfaces. 

The airline plans to increase frequencies in several other cities across the US In March, the airline will add additional flights from Chicago, Dallas-Forth Worth, and Houston, followed by Miami and San Francisco in July. It will also resume its Atlanta service, which consists of four flights per week, on June 1.

Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways

At that point, QR will operate 83 flights to and from the US each week across 12 cities. Other destinations include Washington DC, Los Angeles, New York (JFK), Philadelphia, and Boston. The airline also flies to numerous destinations in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and Asia. 

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Qatar Airways never stopped flying to take our passengers home, and that uniquely positioned us to strategically rebuild our network for reinstating existing flights as well as opening new destinations like SEA,” Eric Odone, VP Sales, Americas, Qatar Airways, said, noting that SEA is the airlines’ seventh new destination launch since the pandemic began. 

Photo: Tom Harris

The Oneworld Global Alliance

Alaska Airlines (AS) Mileage Plan members have already been able to earn miles on Qatar flights as part of a special agreement, but will soon be able to redeem those trips as well, according to Nat Pieper, SVP Fleet, Finance and Alliances at Alaska Airlines.

Alaska Airlines is set to become the Oneworld Global Alliance’s fourteenth member on March 31, offering passengers a “seamless travel experience” to over 1,000 global destinations, and the ability to earn and redeem miles across all partners. Elite passengers will also enjoy perks including priority check-in, first- and business-class lounges, preferred boarding, and extra baggage.

Photo: Tom Harris

Featured image: Brandon Harris/Airways