MIAMI – Earlier this year, Qatar Airways (QR) announced it would reinstate its four weekly nonstop flights to Atlanta (ATL) on June 1, 2021, increasing the carrier’s U.S. network to 12 destinations.

This will be the only nonstop service to Doha’s Hamad International Airport (DOH) from ATL, and it will be operated using Airbus A350-900. The aircraft features 36 seats in the award-winning Qsuite Business class and 247 seats in Economy Class.

This date also celebrates the fifth anniversary of QR’s first flight to Atlanta in 2016. In addition to resuming non-stops to Atlanta, the carrier will increase frequencies to several other U.S. destinations.

Per the QR website, travel time from ATL to DOH will be 13 hours, 40 minutes. The return flight is scheduled for just over 15 hours.

In an exclusive interview recently with Airways, Mark Drusch, SVP of Revenue Management, Alliances and Strategy at QR described the airline’s return to Atlanta and the reasons behind the move.

Photo: Iain Marshall/Airways

Why QR Is Returning to ATL

Primarily, of course, is the potential customer base. With Atlanta’s booming economy and constantly growing population, there is a large group of people who wish to return home to visit loved ones left behind in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Mr. Drusch pointed out the large Kenyan and Ethiopian populations in Atlanta in particular as customers the airline may focus on.

Obviously, too, despite the repatriation efforts of some national airlines, the pandemic stranded a great number of people here in the US. Now, as countries reopen, Qatar thinks there will be significant group of those who wish to travel home.

Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

Nonstop Flights

The nonstop flights will provide the fastest and easiest flight to the DOH hub from which passengers can easily connect to final destinations in the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, or Africa. Drusch also states that QR is the most convenient option for travelers heading to Southeast Asia, particularly Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and even markets like Iran and Iraq.

Qatar feels that other airlines flying into ATL do not adequately serve these populations and that it knows better than others how to reach out in culturally appropriate ways to communicate with those communities and reach potential passengers. The airline hopes those travelers will know that QR understands them and can conveniently get them where they need to go.

Other airlines may have abandoned these populations, and QR is ready to fill that gap.

During our talk, Mr. Drusch repeatedly emphasized that QR is providing the only nonstop service to Doha from ATL, that the flights will run using the new and highly efficient eco-friendly Airbus A350-900 aircraft, and that passengers can choose the luxury of the award-winning Q Suite Business class. A sliding door fully encloses the Q Suite. That means that it isolates its passengers from everyone else in the cabin so that they will not have to wear a mask during the trip.

Photo: Milan Witham/Airways

COVID-19 Protocols

A350-1000 QSuite. Photo:Qatar Airways

The airline will use an ultraviolet light system created by Honeywell to kill 99.99% of viruses and bacteria in the cabin. It will also use other protocols, such as flight attendants wearing face shields, for additional protection.

As with its other endeavors, QR feels that it is at the leading edge of COVID-19 safety and is adequately protecting both passengers and crew from the virus. Passengers should not worry about contracting coronavirus while flying the airline.

Travelers should keep in mind, though, to understand the COVID-19 protocols and quarantine restrictions that may be in place at their ultimate destination.

Another advantage for passengers flying these routes is Hamad International Airport itself. DOH is currently ranked as the third-best airport in the world and number one in the Middle East.

Mr. Dursch says travelers arriving on QR can quickly and easily connect to their next flight in the modern traveler-friendly airport. Connections from DOH offer passengers nonstop service to dozens of locations throughout the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, and Southeast Asia.

Qatar Airways currently has the largest fleet of A350s, totaling 52 with 34 of the smaller A350-900 and 18 of the A350-1000. It also has one of the youngest fleets of any airline, with an average aircraft age of around 7 years.

Featured image: Qatar Airways A350 – Photo: Noah Pitkin/Airways