Qatar Airways’ Odd A380 Bangkok Deployment

I’ve written in the past about the interesting A380 deployment strategies of Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways.

While Emirates has more A380s than they know what to do with, Etihad and Qatar took a conservative strategy when it came to A380 acquisitions (one of the few areas in which those carriers are conservative). They each have just 10 A380s on (firm) order, so they won’t be flying them to every destination in the world just for giggles, as Emirates does.

Emirates-A380-First-Class-01

Etihad has taken possibly the most disciplined approach to A380 utilization. They’ll fly them to their most prestigious destinations, which are presumably also among their highest yield destinations — specifically London, New York, and Sydney. I wouldn’t expect to see Etihad’s A380s available in any other markets. but rather we’ll likely just see additional A380 frequencies in those high-yield markets.

Etihad-A380-First-Apartment-01

Qatar Airways, on the other hand, has been taking more of a hodgepodge approach to their A380s. They took delivery of their first A380 last year (I was on the inaugural flight from Doha to London), which they first flew to London, then to Paris, and then (surprisingly) to Bangkok.

Qatar-Airways-A380-First-Class-113

Bangkok is no doubt a high capacity market, though historically isn’t the highest yield market out there.

While I was surprised by the A380 service to Bangkok to begin with, I was even more surprised when in the spring they announced that they’d introduce twice daily A380 service to Bangkok.

Qatar-Airways-A380-First-Class-001

That’s not all, folks! This winter Qatar Airways will be introducing 3x daily A380 service between Doha and Bangkok. Or more specifically, that third A380 frequency will be operated five of the seven days per week starting October 25, 2015. Via airlineroute.net, the additional A380 frequency will be for the following flight:

QR832 Doha to Bangkok departing 8:30AM arriving 6:45PM
QR837 Bangkok to Doha departing 1:40AM arriving 4:40AM

Qatar-A380

Anyway, to be clear, the reason this surprises me is that:

  • Bangkok is a super high capacity market, though Qatar Airways also has some really high capacity planes, like the A340-600; so they don’t need an A380 to meet that capacity
  • There’s a good amount of premium cabin demand to Bangkok, though it’s not especially high yield; just look at business class fares to/from Bangkok compared to fares to/from London, for example
  • There’s no prestige in flying an A380 to Bangkok; that might sound like a dumb point, but we’re talking about the airline with quite possibly the “proudest” CEO in the industry — he claimed Qatar Airways is flying A350s to Germany simply to piss off Lufthansa

Qatar-Airways-A380-First-Class-077

Bottom line

I’m sure there’s logic behind it. There must be, because clearly Al Baker isn’t deploying “his” A380s to Bangkok out of pride. But it’s an interesting trend nonetheless, especially given how it starkly contrasts to Etihad’s approach. I’d love to see Qatar deploy an A380 to the US, though it looks like that won’t be happening.

Qatar-Airways-A380-First-Class-076

Beyond that, I can’t help but notice how terrible Qatar’s A380 utilization is. If I’m seeing things correctly, here’s what their A380 “turns” will look like on the Bangkok route:

QR832 Doha to Bangkok departing 8:30AM arriving 6:45PM
QR837 Bangkok to Doha departing 1:40AM arriving 4:40AM

QR830 Doha to Bangkok departing 9:00PM arriving 7:10AM (+1 day)
QR831 Bangkok to Doha departing 8:35AM arriving 11:50AM

QR836 Doha to Bangkok departing 1:55AM arriving 12:10PM
QR833 Bangkok to Doha departing 8:45PM arriving 11:55PM

If that’s correct (and best I can tell that’s the best case scenario, though I’m not sure how they’re turning an A380 in Bangkok in 85 minutes), that means two of the three A380 are sitting on the ground in Bangkok for 7-8 hours. Goodness, with that kind of utilization you’d think they would get more value out of putting the plane on an ultra longhaul flight, or something.

Anyone have a better theory on Qatar’s rather odd A380 utilization?

Comments

  1. I love this guy 😀

    “he claimed Qatar Airways is flying A350s to Germany simply to piss off Lufthansa”

  2. I think it’s possibly in part to attract European travellers, for a couple of reasons:
    – to raise its profile and reputation in the face of prominent rivals like Emirates, etc
    – to make that destination seem more accessible, in terms of travel time. Believe it or not, many European travellers are put off by single long haul flights and two shorter flights, eg London-Doha / Doha-Bangkok may be more appealing.
    – Thailand is a destination of choice for many Europeans. According to the British Foreign Office, ‘British nationals make over 900,000 trips to Thailand per year’. Add to that the French, Dutch, Germans (if they’re not boycotting), Scandinavians, and so on.
    I almost chose them for my upcoming trip to Thailand but opted for BA… I’m Australian, I can handle those long flights!

  3. I’m on QR830/831 in late September. Currently 2/8 on the DOH-BKK leg and 1/8 on the return leg. I’m quite sure they would fill the F much more flying to SIN/NRT etc.

  4. Ben, I think you should write a post about this since so many non-American readers complained about that your posts are useful for American residents only.

    So, long story short it looks like I’ll relocate to the UK in the next year and I was curious about how to maximize my point earnings both on my day-to-day expenses and on my travel expenses as well. The credits cars are not as generous as the Americans and the sign-up bonuses are also lower. Many card charges foreign transaction fees and the return rate is significantly less compared to the US cards. However I did my research and it looks like it’s not as bad as it seems like at first.

    There are plenty of cards so I won’t write a detailed description about all of them rather only about those that earns Avios (later I’ll explain why!). Here are my favorites:

    – American Express British Airways Premium Plus Card, 18,000 sign-up bonus Avios, 3% foreign transaction fee, 1.5 Avios / pound on everything and 3 Avios / pound with British Airways, the annual fee is £150, companion voucher at £10,000 each year
    – Lloyds Bank Premier Avios Credit Card (Amex + Mastercard), double Avios for 6 months with Amex, no foreign transaction fees, flight upgrade voucher at £5,000 spend, worldwide companion ticket at £12,000, Amex earns 1.5 Avios / pound while the Mastercard earns 1.5 Avios / 5 pounds, £140 annual fee for the two cards

    This isn’t really appealing however the Avios “game” is huge in the UK. In order to see the offer you have to register at avois.com with a British address (google maps is your friend) then you can shop online with their partners. The list of their partners is huge (hundreds of well known brands)! The return varies between 2 Avios / pound to 8 Avios / pound. Tesco (2 Avios / pound), Vodafone, Shell, Hotels.com (4 Avios / pound), Harrods (8 Avios / pound), Nike, Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Apple (4 Avios / pound), Groupon (8 Avios / pound) just to name a few. If you add these rates to the 1.5 Avios / pound you earn with your card then many times you can earn as much as 9.5 Avios / pounds which is second to none!

    So if you cleverly spend your day-to-day expenses via their partners then you can rack up thousands of Avioses (or even tens of thousands if you spend more) each month. It looks like the UK is a good place to earn Avioses but not so good for other points because of the low credit card reward rates. For instance the UK SPG Amex earns only 1 point / pound.

    I’d love to see a post about this. I give you some links to make it easier to write a post if you decide so!

    https://goo.gl/eeXqdT
    http://goo.gl/QBmZLc
    http://goo.gl/kZdQUL
    https://goo.gl/dGScHf
    https://goo.gl/hSkVmr

  5. a scorpion once asked a frog whether he could sit on his back across the lake

    The frog said “why would you not sting me?” The scorpion replied that would be foolish we would both drown.

    So the frog agreed and half way through the lake sure enough the scorpion stung him. As they were drowning the frog said this makes no sense!

    And the scorpion replied this is the Middle East – it does not have to make sense……

  6. @W: in short, capacity is the number of seats. Yield is the money you make per seat. A market that mostly sees backpackers, needs a high capacity. But since they won’t pay much for their seat, the yield is low. What surprises Ben, is that they put a plane with many expensive seats on a route that people don’t want to pay much for. So a high capacity, low yield route. I agree with Ben, but I guess for the airline it makes sense in some way. Just don’t know which one…

  7. Ouch! BKK regularly run out of A380 parking position as it is! Last December on EK we has to wait on twy almost an hour until the parking was vacant (and that is not even a contact gate!)

  8. @31583
    Bear in mind in the UK, if you have no credit history in the UK it can be difficult to get any credit.
    Maximising sound is not as easy as the U.S., a lot of companies charge extra for accepting credit cards

  9. How about a nice JFK-LAX A380? For that matter, I’d love to see the ME3 do US domestic flights and bring in-flight service back to this country.

  10. maybe one should look at the cargo aspects of these flights, maybe these destinatiions allow them to pick up cheap duty free products so that they can be re distributed amongst their network. I am aware that some carriers do certain short haul flights which make no sense to us as passengers but it gives the airlines access to a cheaper duty free market to buy their fleets products- alcohol etc.

  11. As an Arab guy from a gulf country, I can tell you that Thailand is a major destination for Arabs from UAE, Qatar, Saudi, Kuwait, etc. Most of those guys also fly business or first so I think that’s what Qatar is shooting for in addition to the points made by Mavis about European tourists. You also have to remember that the fight between the G3 is not only for “best airline” award but to bring as many tourists as possible to their hub country/city to promote their countries and gain more political and business influence. Doha has been pushing aggressively to position itself as a better Dubai while Abu Dhabi is fighting to get a piece of the pie too.

  12. @AlexS

    “How about a nice JFK-LAX A380?”

    Complete with complimentary ponies?

    Just because you want something doesn’t mean it makes sense. The only carrier that really likes the A380 is EK. Everyone else doesn’t have much use for it. You might notice that the 748 is also not particularly popular (LH is already talking about getting rid of theirs at some point).

    USA-based carriers prefer high-frequency over high capacity. You might note that no USA-based carrier has a hub that’s remotely similar to what EK runs at DXB.

    “For that matter, I’d love to see the ME3 do US domestic flights and bring in-flight service back to this country.”

    That would require a change in US law.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabotage#In_passenger_aviation

    The US does not allow cabotage to non-USA carriers.

  13. Their A380s have 140 seats more than the next largest plane (the 2-class 773) and most of the extra seats are in Y. I would assume they need a ton of those to serve the low-yield market. After all, prestige is nice, but the size of the A380 makes it somewhat predestined for those high-capacity low-yield markets where you just need to cram a ton of seats in. Similarly, Emirates is also sending 2-class A380s to BKK.

  14. Qatar definitely likes to be different! And not always in a good way unfortunately.

    I love that Emirates wants to pretty much wants to be an all A380 fleet (at least for all long haul flights). For those not so ambitious, I like carriers putting A380 services on high demand and/or long haul flights (the longer you have to sit on the plane, the greater the benefits of the A380 is appreciated).

    On a different topic, BA’s A380 First Cabin is weird in that it only offers two Economy sized toilets for this cabin. It appears that there used to be a more decent sized toilet that was located forward of these two broom closet toilets in First, but it has since been removed from the seat map (did they turn it into a crew only toilet?). If you want a toilet that doesn’t cause claustrophobia First passengers have to walk upstairs to use the Upper Deck Business cabin toilets (talk about back to front!).

  15. Quick look on QR’s flights to LHR (QR9/10 – QR3/4) and CDG (QR39/40), shows its pretty normal for QR to have an aircraft spending there 8-9 hours, so whats the big deal?

    Also it makes perfect sense on the yield part; but I don’t suppose they make all that profit by running inefficient aircraft placements (This is Qatar, not Skymark!), lots of financial modeling is involved in addition to the long term marketing goals.

    Off the top of my head: To deepen the brand perception in them European tourists on a busy season for a busy route like BKK; why not use their best Economy product where you can “impress” more pax’s? pax’s love the A380, i know i do!

    Companies do invest into what might seem to “make no sense at all” (basically losing money on the short term) to cement its brand perception. Not an airline, but Lexus with their LFA supercar where they lost money building every single one, but eventually morphed the brand forever, is the best example of this strategy.

    My point here is that, there is more to be considered into aircraft placements.

  16. The reason why you are scratching your head with their deployment is you do not work in the airline industry and therefore it is none of your business if Qatar deploys their A380 to BKK how many times they want. You do not work for them and they have a reputable and solid airline to operate. In addition you only see what you wish to see so you can fly them more often for practically free and brag your ass in the web. I suggest you concentrate on your high maintenance globe trotting in First Class and leave the airline operation to the hands of the operators.

  17. I don’t see why 832 is matched with 837 and 836 with 833.

    Makes more sense if the aircraft operating 832 returns 120 minutes later operating 833 and the aircraft operating 836 returns 90 minutes later operating 837.

  18. @ igloo — For 836/837 that would be a 13hr30min turn, not a 1hr30min turn. Not the 12:10PM arrival and 1:40AM departure.

  19. Ben – I agree with @igloo & there is likely only going to be 1 on the ground in BKK for just over half the day. Which then leads the question – where else could QR continue on to & from in that timeframe, which they’ve not announced?

  20. I agree with mkcol that QR might actually continue to some other Asian location that they haven’t announced yet. I would be happy that they continue onto Hong Kong, like what EK does right now.

  21. @igloo , that was my initial thought, but flight record’s in flightradar24 show that on a certain aircraft is actually on the ground for quite some time.
    you can try it, look for the tail signs

  22. I had the same thoughts with @mckol, only one aircraft has to be on ground for half a day, the other two can turn around in 85 minutes and 120 minutes. It’s highly possible they would continue to another asian country

  23. Hi

    Im flying from Doha to Bangkok with Qatar in a couple of days.
    I was wondering if business class can freely use the fast track immigration lane. Or is it best to buy this separately?

    Thanks

  24. There are so many A380s at BKK airport, almost every airlines send their biggest planes here. I guess for high capacity market like BKK, world’s most visited city.

  25. Seems like as of this week it is down to one A380 per day. When I checked last week it was still 3x flights with the A380.

  26. Ans now they’ve stopped them all together. Our booking has been changed to a 777. Obviously not high yield enough!

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