The Last Airline in the Skies

Thomas Scruby, Qatar Airways’ Vice President Pacific, on maintaining a network through COVID-19, building loyalty among passengers, and the airline’s vision of business travel going forward. 

What is your vision for Qatar Airways as the world transitions out of the COVID-19 period?

Qatar Airways has definitely gained a lot of attention in recent months. We never stopped flying throughout the pandemic and in fact, our mission became to take people home safely. Qatar Airways has become the largest global carrier to help over 1.8 million people fly home safely, and organised over 220 special charters, working closely with different embassies globally, to help repatriate people home.

Qatar Airways is the largest international carrier flying to Australia, based on passenger numbers. This means all eyes are on us to perform, so our top priority, as we start the recovery from COVID-19, is to maintain our position as a trusted airline, something we will do by continuing to deliver the best airline experience, as well as enhanced hygiene safety features to provide optimal safety to our passengers.

READ: Could COVID-19 Fuel Demand for Private Jet Travel?

Can you give us a sense of what these measures are and how they might impact the travel experience?

We want to make sure the changes have minimal impact on the experience for customers while keeping them as safe as possible. For now, we’re requiring all passengers to wear face coverings inflight and recommending they bring their own for fit and comfort purposes. Our staff are also wearing safety goggles, gloves, masks, and PPE suits over their uniforms while onboard. Cabin crew have received training on how to minimise their chances of contracting or spreading the infection, are thermally screened before the departure of flights and after their arrival, and are quarantined and tested if any colleagues or passengers on a flight show any symptoms of infection or test positive for the virus.

In Business Class, meals are now being served on a tray instead of a table set up, and cutlery wraps are offered to passengers as an alternative to individual cutlery service, in an effort to reduce contact between the crew and the passengers. Additionally, passengers flying Business Class can avail of the enhanced privacy the Qsuite provides, including sliding privacy partitions and fully closing doors, creating a private sanctuary. They can also opt for the ‘Do Not Disturb (DND)’ indicator in their private suite if they wish to limit their interactions with the cabin crew.

Qatar Airways Vice President Pacific Thomas Scruby on navigating the COVID-19 epidemic and building and maintaining loyalty among airline passengers. 

How do you plan to grow the airline over the next 12 months?

As the global recovery from COVID-19 begins, we recently unveiled plans to gradually rebuild the Qatar Airways network in line with passenger demand evolution and the expected relaxation of entry restrictions around the world. By the end of June, we plan to have over 45 destinations in our network, with additional routes to be added throughout the northern hemisphere’s summer season. Just in the last few days, we have resumed selling flights to Venice (first flight July 15) and Dar Es Salaam (first destination to resume scheduled flights in East Africa) and increased frequencies to daily for flights to Athens, Milan, Rome, and Dublin.

From this experience, Qatar Airways has further established itself as one of the world’s most trusted airlines; we have gained a lot of favour with our customers. I believe we will come out of this crisis stronger.

READ: Dr. Michelle McQuaid on Maintaining Your Well-being When Working Remotely

Australia, where you’re based, has announced that it expects its borders to be closed at least until the end of this year; how will that impact operations for Qatar Airways in the region?

It is obviously not ideal for airlines, but the government’s decision to close borders early and remain so strict with restrictions has been beneficial for the country and Australia as seen relatively low virus cases overall. When it comes to our operations, as you know we never stopped flying to and from Australia, and continue to do so today.

Keeping the border closed means that Aussies who usually flock to Europe to escape the winter won’t be able to do so this year, and that is a significant number of holiday travellers for us. However, we still have strong demand for our current Australian operations, so expect to continue flying in the region for essential travellers for the remainder of the year, and indeed until the borders are opened.

What are you expecting in terms of travel trends and demand in the post-coronavirus recovery period?

Entry restrictions around the world are the biggest impediment to many people resuming travel. As restrictions begin to ease, we expect passenger demand to increase gradually. People will want to travel again, experience the world, and meet friends and family. In many ways, the restrictions have made people realise how precious the ability to travel really is, and it’s something that perhaps was taken for granted. We anticipate supply will closely match demand as airlines have available aircraft to meet this measured return of passengers. Fares will remain competitive as demand returns and people return to the skies.

Qatar Airways Vice President Pacific Thomas Scruby on navigating the COVID-19 epidemic and building and maintaining loyalty among airline passengers. 

Qatar Airways’ QSuite

How do you envision the post-COVID travel experience and how will it differ from before?

I imagine many of the safety measures being implemented by airlines and the travel industry at large will continue to be in place once coronavirus restrictions have all been lifted. Customers will still be wary of infection risks and will expect airlines to be more cautious. This means continued social distancing where possible, increased cleaning and hygiene practices, and reduced contact with staff.

The global lockdown has forced businesses to change the way they operate, with staff working from home and virtual conferencing becoming the norm. How do you see this changing business travel?

I have seen recent commentary predicting the end of business travel once we come out the other side. However, I think once we are allowed, business travellers will be keener than ever to finally start flying again! It’s also worth noting that business travel hasn’t completely stopped – even with Australia’s borders closed, many of the people still flying are those who are travelling for business. What will change is that businesses will be more cautious around travel. This means ensuring that staff who travel are adhering to strict social distancing, hygiene procedures, and even quarantining where necessary.

READ: Urban Resort Concepts’ Markus Engel on The Search for Authenticity in Hospitality

What will Qatar Airways do to encourage business travellers to take to the skies again and what initiatives will the Privilege Club put in place to ensure that travel takes place with the airline?

One of our biggest promotions for business travellers right now has been the tier match campaign, which has been very successful. We have been offering members from some competitor airlines the opportunity to attain the same tier in our Privilege Club program as they are currently holding with other airlines and to hold this status with us for the next 12 months. In addition, we have extended our membership term for existing members. Our silver, gold and platinum members whose membership were due to expire by January 31, 2021, have had those memberships extended for another 12 months, so they can retain their status for when flying resumes.

Aside from this, we will continue to offer corporate agreements for large or medium-sized enterprises, providing a dedicated Qatar Airways Account Manager, and exclusive travel perks for businesses. Our Beyond Business by Qatar Airways rewards program gives companies valuable Qrewards for every dollar spent, which can be redeemed for the cost of any flight. The program also offers benefits such as fast track Gold status and lounge access.

Qatar Airways Vice President Pacific Thomas Scruby on navigating the COVID-19 epidemic and building and maintaining loyalty among airline passengers. 

What other developments are we likely to see from Qatar Airways in the coming months?

We have definitely had a surprisingly busy last few months, and don’t plan to slow down any time soon. By the end of June, we will have over 45 destinations in our network, with more than 270 weekly flights. This will continue to increase steadily as restrictions ease and passenger demand grows. We have plans to increase flights on existing routes and also add more destinations to our growing global network. So stay tuned for more exciting news.

Read More of Our Mile High Club Columns Here

Recommend to friends
  • gplus
  • pinterest

About the Author

Thomas Scruby

Thomas Scruby is Qatar Airways’ Vice President Pacific, and is based in Melbourne, from where he leads the airline’s operations across Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Korea. He has over 20 years of experience in commercial aviation management, along with extensive global industry knowledge, with past roles in London, Sydney, Hong Kong and Japan, at major brands including British Airways, LATAM Airlines, Helloworld Travel, and American Airlines, where he was responsible for the company’s commercial business in Hong Kong, South East Asia, and most recently Japan and Korea.