Here’s Why Qatar Airways Is Delaying The World’s Longest Flight

In late January I wrote about Qatar Airways’ announcement that they were planning on launching the world’s two longest flights, from Doha to Santiago, Chile, and Auckland, New Zealand. The announcement came from the airline’s CEO, who sometimes isn’t an especially accurate source, so I didn’t take the route as fact at the time.

Auckland-New-Zealand
Auckland, New Zealand

Interestingly less than a week after his proclamation, Emirates announced that they’d begin nonstop flights between Dubai and Auckland, which would launch on March 1, 2016. It sure seems like Emirates’ new route was motivated (or at least fast-tracked) by Qatar Airways’ announcement, since presumably Emirates wanted to beat Qatar to the punch.

Sure enough Emirates did in fact launch the world’s longest flight as of March 1, 2016. A week after Emirates’ launch, Qatar Airways formally announced they’d begin flying between Doha and Auckland as of December 3, 2016.

Qatar-Airways-777
Qatar Airways 777-200LR, which will fly between Doha and Auckland

That’s a fairly logical time to start the route, as it’s the start of the Southern Summer, which is peak season for travel to New Zealand.

Well, unfortunately it looks like Qatar Airways will be delaying the launch of this flight. Qatar Airways has revised their schedule, and the Doha to Auckland route is now scheduled to launch as of February 1, 2017.

Apparently the cause of the route delay is the lack of available Boeing 777-200LRs (the only plane in their fleet capable of operating the route), of which they only have nine. Qatar Airways is taking delayed delivery of some Airbus A350 aircraft, which is having a ripple effect (in other words, certain 777-200LR routes were supposed to be replaced by A350s, but since the A350s are delayed, they can’t replace them yet).

This is all pretty hilarious, since originally Akbar Al Baker claimed the reason they waited to start the Auckland service was “as a mark of respect to Emirates.” Well, I guess that theory is out the window (not that anyone ever believed it).

Bottom line

Award availability on the Doha to Auckland flight was wide open in business class, so if you’re booked on the flight in the first couple of months of service, you might want to check your itinerary and make alternative plans. At this point I’d assume that even the February 1 launch date is optimistic, given that Qatar Airways seems to have more aircraft delivery delays than any other airline (largely due to their “very high standards of quality”).

Was anyone booked on the Doha to Auckland flight in the first couple of months, and if so, did Qatar Airways automatically rebook you?

Comments

  1. Ugh, I am booked in Jan using AA miles. Haven’t heard anything from either airline, and the itinerary still shows as ticketed on AA’s site.

    The timing through Australia is not good. So I want to change my origin, but I don’t want to give up my pre-devaluation award price! Do you think AA would make an exception?

  2. I have a booking for AKL-DOH-CDG in early Feb so, naturally, I’m really hoping the 1 Feb launch date sticks.

    If the launch date gets pushed back past the middle of March, that will put people like me (who booked award seats with AAdvantage Miles pre-devaluation) in a position where our tickets are no longer valid (travel only being valid for a year from the date of purchase) and we’ll will be left with the choice of cancelling or rebooking at the new and highly inflated redemption rates. Really hope it doesn’t come to that.

  3. I know plenty of folks have booked the extremely generous fares ex-Germany during the last couple of days (EUR 1700 all in in Business Class TXL/MUC/FRA-DOH-AKL-DOH-TXL/MU /FRA, EUR 300 less if you started or ended in PSA).
    No one has reported back tegarding reebookings.

  4. The FT thread about the business class fare makes clear that people are being rebooked through HKG (w/ CX) or SYD (w/ LA, QF).

    @Ziggy, if the start date is pushed out, you will not be forced to rebook at higher rates because of 1+ year; when there are schedule changes, the most airlines will typically either (a) re-route you for free so you still get from point A to B on your selected dates or (b) let you cancel without penalty. AA, in addition, lets you (c) reschedule without penalty as long as O/D remain unchanged. The airline is selling you a ticket to travel between two points, not “experience the new A350,” so you don’t generally have a right to a particular aircraft on a particular route. Though it can’t hurt to ask.

  5. Certainly seems more reasonable than his first excuse.

    But do we know that it’s Qatar not accepting A350s or is Airbus behind? How quickly are they being delivered to other customers?

  6. Booked on psa-akl, akl-fra in end of december and hope new routes will not add super long layovers.

  7. @ Ivan Y

    Airbus is late delivering the A350s due to a problem with the supplier Zodiac Aerospace (again). Zodiac was supposed to supply the lavatories for the A350, but are behind schedule.

  8. I’m booked late Jan.

    Having spoken with Qatar, they confirmed they WONT cancel people’s tickets and they will reroute or offer refund if not suitable. My understanding from speaking with a supervisor is that they are sorting out their options and was told these will be available by end of week. Guess that due to the sale over the weekend they sold a lot of seats (far more than usual this far out – particularly in business) and therefore are trying to sort something to limit their financial exposure to this.

  9. @LTL Sorry, I wasn’t clear in my comment. What I meant was that, if I wanted to try out the AKL-DOH route on QR, I could be in trouble if the launch was pushed back past the middle of March. I realise that I could still take my original trip and allow myself to be rebooked on a different airline (but that would miss the point of my trip) and American has today confirmed (twice – once via a supervisor) that they won’t reschedule without penalty if the ticket is over a year old (I’ve sent an email in to AA CS to see if I can get that confirmed in writing).

  10. 1. A little bit late – first reported on May 4th at http://www.ausbt.com.au/qatar-airways-plans-a350-flights-for-perth-delays-auckland-launch

    2. Reasons given at the May 4 presser by Qatar CEO was delays in A350 production and acceptance, with the three newest A350s intended for QR still on the ground until the airline considers them up to scratch.

    “This has caused a knock-on effect for the airline’s planned Auckland-Doha flights, previously slated for December 3 but now pushed back until February 2017. While the airline will fly the long-range Boeing 777-200LR aircraft to Auckland, it needs the Airbus A350 to free up that Boeing 777 from another Qatar route in order to start the New Zealand service.”

  11. @David I don’t see any quotes or official comments in that article that confirmed the delay to the Auckland route. The rumours in the press have been reported here and elsewhere before (even linking to that very article) but, as far as I can tell, the route was only officially delayed to 1 Feb 2017 when QR updated their schedule yesterday.

  12. @Ziggy – Don’t you know, AusBT likes to pretend they’re on the cutting edge of all breaking news. 😉

  13. http://atwonline.com/airframes/qatar…raft-shortages

    It’s not just AKL that is affected by the route expansion by QR and the aircraft delivery delays.

    We were booked on QR in August MIA-DOH-CPT. QR cancelled the MIA-DOH leg. MIA-DOH is changing from 7 flights per week to 5. AA and QR have been unhelpful to say the least. Right now we are waitlisted to depart a day earlier. We would have hoped AA/QR would have rebooked us on BA to CPT or to another QR gateway in the US or Europe and then onward. There are a number of QR gateways in Europe and the US that have AA service from MIA but there appears to be no interest in finding a solution that gets us there the date we had booked or at all at this point. Per BA web site space was available LHR-CPT and from a number of cities in Europe to DOH then connecting to our original DOH-CPT flight. I shudder to think what would happen if the flight was cancelled the day of departure. Don’t assume you will be accommodated. We have no outbound flight confirmed over a week after calling AA. They didn’t notify us the flight was cancelled.

  14. I booked a flight from Amsterdam to Auckland, with a departing date in december. today I received an email from Qatar about the cancellation of my flight.

    They give me three options:
    – Reroute your ticket to another Qatar Airways destination but any fare difference will apply·      
    – Postpone flights after 6th of February free of charge·         
    -Refund of the ticket.

    Qatar does not even try to propose an alternative flight!
    This is no customers ‘service’ at all!

  15. @DOoms – Is QR legally permitted to charge you more for a re-route because of their delay? I’d have thought that a free re-route was well and truly covered in their Conditions of Carriage which form the basis of your contract…it is not up for the airline to choose which is most convenient, but you, the traveller, from the options selected. This does not mean paying more money. I would check on the legalities of what Qatar have offered you…it doesn’t seem right to me.

    I have heard of several cases where the airline has rerouted customers becuase of the delayed AKL launch, and all seems well with their bookings, so precedent was set. Others have had their C Class tickets downgraded (but rerouted), which seems fraudulent to me (sell you a business tkt then downgrade). I am sure the last thing Qatar will wish to have is publicity about shady trading practices and potential fraud on their part.

    What airline in the world would wish to create doubt that booking a ticket they advertise for sale would mean you might not reach your destination, you might have to pay more money to get there, or you could travel in a different (lower) class of travel than advertised/paid for, on the whim of the airline? With no confidence in future booking, the airline would go out of business pretty quickly.

    Good luck, and keep us posted!

  16. I booked DOH-AKL on Qatar for early December, using AAdvantage Miles. AA called to advise of a change in booking. As a replacement to the non-stop to AKL, they’ve booked me DOH-SYD, with an added leg from SYD to AKL.

  17. Was booked on Manchester – Doha – Auckland flight business class for 28/01/2017. Have been offered a re-scheduled journey that involves an additional layover at Melbourne. Not very happy that there are now 2 stops rather than one, a longer journey time and an 8:00 am start rather than mid afternoon from Manchester. No compensation on offer for accepting an inferior route. All in all poor customer service delivered with the attitude of “take it or leave it” .

  18. I booked a Edinburgh-Doha-Auckland for end of December.
    It’s mid-November. I’ve only discovered the route cancellation last week. I haven’t been informed by Qatar Airways. I did discover it when I called them to ask for a baby bassinet. I had emails from them until September still showing the initial flight route.
    I have been chasing customer support. They are not supportive. I’m still expecting the booking centre to call me back as they said they would do a week ago.
    With two kids less than 3 year old the extra stop is more than disruptive.
    Worst customer service ever

  19. Any updates on this?

    We are booked to AKL from Man on 11/2/2017 and according to some the direct flight is looking precarious.

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