As Qatar Airways prepared to launch its new Atlanta-Doha flights in June, a feud between Qatar and Delta Air Lines exploded into a public fracas, and Delta cast doubt on the route's prospects.
Atlanta-based Delta’s president, Glen Hauenstein, said the Atlanta-Doha market has fewer than five people a day, meaning the rest of the Qatar Airways plane would need to be filled with connecting passengers.
"We don't think they'll be successful," Hauenstein said. Delta, American and United have accused Qatar and other Middle East carriers of being unfairly subsidized by their governments and using that funding to flood the U.S. market with flights.
New figures from Hartsfield-Jackson give some insights into how Qatar’s Atlanta flights did in the first month of operations. The data, reported by the airlines, shows that 5,845 passengers boarded Qatar flights departing Atlanta in June, and 7,275 passengers arrived in Atlanta on Qatar jets.
That’s an average of nearly 195 passengers a day boarding flights, and nearly 243 passengers a day getting off flights. The airline operates one flight per day in each direction.
Qatar started the service June 1 with a super-jumbo Airbus A380, which it said was full. It then switched to a 259-seat Boeing 777.
Competing airlines sometimes argue that even if demand is weak, airlines can fill planes by pricing fares low enough to attract passengers who otherwise may not have taken the flight. Qatar Airways sells fares on the route on its website ranging from under $800 each way for sale fares to more than $1,000 each way for other economy class fares, or more than $3,000 each way for business class.
Qatar Airways said in a written statement it is “delighted” with its new service to Atlanta, which is its tenth U.S. destination.
“Demand has exceeded our expectations, proving that our projections were accurate and indicating our growing popularity in the U.S. market,” the airline said in its statement. Atlanta “is a vital destination for thousands of our global passengers,” the company added.
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