Qatar Airways, which made a splash by launching a nonstop route from Atlanta to the Middle Eastern nation’s capital of Doha in 2016, is set to restart the connection in June after suspending it when the the pandemic hit last March.
The Atlanta route resume four times per week starting June 1, making the city one of 12 destinations the carrier will serve in the United States — two more than when the pandemic sent world travel grinding to a near halt — on 83 weekly flights. Qatar mainly transits passengers through Doha en route to an expanding array of destinations in Africa, Asia and beyond.
Qatar’s latest gateway city, Seattle, is set to launch four times weekly Jan. 29 and ramp up to daily by July 1, the company said in a Jan. 21 news release.
The announcement comes as countries around the world struggle to get vaccines into the arms of their citizens to stem the spread of COVID-19, which has claimed more than 400,000 lives in the U.S. alone and infected about 100 million people globally.
Airlines — and tourism agencies around the globe — are betting on the return of travel in the second half of the year, though the vaccine rollout in some places has taken longer than anticipated, and new variants of the virus that seem to be more transmissible are emerging in places like the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil.
Newly inaugurated President Joe Biden this week reinstituted a ban on travel from the European Union countries that are part of the 26-nation Schengen area, as well as the three countries above where variants are spreading.
While currently approved COVID-19 vaccines seem to be almost just as effective against the mutations, health experts have warned that drug companies and governments should prepare for a possible situation in which the effects of the vaccines are diminished.
Qatar, meanwhile, says its airport is ready. Hamad International Airport in Doha — uniquely owned designed by the state-backed airline — was the first in the world to earn five-star COVID-19 airport safety rating from the rating organization SkyTrax. Qatar Airways is the first airline to get the same designation, the company said.
The airline says tickets purchased before April 30 for travel prior to the end of 2021 can be refunded or changed fee-free.
Qatar Airways has had a dedicated cargo freighter service flying to Atlanta throughout the pandemic. Turkish Airlines, which launched its flight from Istanbul to Atlanta around the same time as Qatar, restarted its passenger flights last year after a brief suspension in March. Turkish served more than 45,000 travelers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in all of 2020, down nearly two-thirds from its 121,000-passenger total in 2019, according to the airport.
For more on Qatar Airways’ safety measures, visit qatarairways.com/safety.