Qatar Airways brings its biggest jet to Atlanta

But double-deck jumbo parks on tarmac when no gate open.


Qatar Airways’ bumpy trip to Atlanta continued Wednesday when its first flight had to settle for a parking place on the tarmac instead of a regular gate.

The Middle Eastern carrier launched its Atlanta-Doha service with a double-decker Airbus A380, the world’s largest airliner.

The inaugural flight landed about 4 p.m., but the problem was that Hartsfield-Jackson International has only two gates modified to handle the A380. Both were being used by Delta Air Lines, which said it couldn’t rearrange things in time to make way.

So the Qatar plane was assigned to a “hardstand,” where passengers get off via mobile stairs and are bused to the terminal. The plane was then to be moved to the South cargo terminal for a welcoming event, then back to the hardstand to pick up passengers for the return to Doha.

Gate space shouldn’t be a problem after Wednesday, as the A380 was only used for the inaugural. Normally Qatar will use a smaller Boeing 777, which can use most standard gates.

Still, the arrival punctuated an already strained entry into the market by Qatar, which is adding several U.S. cities to its map this year. It pitches its Doha operation as an emerging global hub.

Atlanta “has been on our radar for a long time,” said Gunter Saurwein, Qatar Airways’ senior vice president for the Americas. He said the Atlanta-Doha flight enables connections to 40 more destinations, including points in India, the Middle East and Asia.

Delta contends Qatar’s growth is unfairly subsidized by its government — which Qatar disputes — and executives of the two airlines have traded barbs over the issue. Last month, when Qatar threw a gala at the Fox Theatre to promote its new Atlanta flights, Delta executives were so miffed they announced the airline would not renew its Fox sponsorship.

A national group critical of Qatar’s government and a flight attendants union also have sought to throw cold water on the new flights.

A Hartsfield-Jackson spokesman said the airport learned a few weeks ago that Qatar planned to use an A380 for the first flight. Airport managers asked Delta if it could accommodate the plane, the spokesman said. Delta doesn’t fly the A380 but operates at the two gates that can handle it.

Delta, which develops its flight schedules and plans for gate usage months in advance, said it couldn’t find a viable option to move its aircraft in the time allotted, adding that it would have had to move multiple aircraft to make room for the huge A380.

“Despite limited time to solve for the request, Delta offered solutions to allow Qatar to use the gates while ensuring our own schedule remained accommodated during a heavy traffic period at the international terminal,” Delta said in a written statement.

Sauerwein, the Qatar executive, downplayed the matter: “We are used to challenges, and basically, we made it possible.”

He said the first A380 had a full load of 517 passengers coming to Atlanta and another full flight going back, including paying passengers and a small group of media.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Cobb cops: Child psychologist molested pre-teen girl, posted it online
Cobb cops: Child psychologist molested pre-teen girl, posted it online

An adolescent psychologist who was the head of a mental health and therapy firm in downtown Atlanta allegedly molested at least one girl and posted recordings of it online. Jonathan Gersh, 37, has been in Cobb County jail since Valentine’s Day without bond on several felony charges of child molestation and child pornography, jail records showed...
Stan Wise resigns from Georgia PSC, says unsure of new Plant Vogtle completion dates
Stan Wise resigns from Georgia PSC, says unsure of new Plant Vogtle completion dates

Wise, who has served with 11 different commissioners during his tenure, has been the commission’s chair since January 2017. “I salute my colleagues for what they’ve done. We’ve left this state better than we found it,” said Wise in his final remarks. During his last year as chairman, Wise presided over heated debates surrounding...
Co-founder of Atlanta’s now-defunct Yik Yak joins board of new app
Co-founder of Atlanta’s now-defunct Yik Yak joins board of new app

The co-founder of a defunct Atlanta-based app has joined the board of directors for Relevnt, an app that connects users with local news sources. Tyler Droll helped Yik Yak, a social-networking tool that was reportedly valued at $400 million in 2015, rise to popularity among college students. However, declines in usage prompted...
As Eagle’s Landing cityhood chances grow, Stockbridge leaders pray

The state Senate on Tuesday stood by its support of a proposal to create a city of Eagle’s Landing by de-annexing a portion of Stockbridge. Senate leaders had been asked by Sen. Emanuel Jones, a Democrat who represents Stockbridge, to reconsider their support for two bills — one to create a charter for Eagle’s Landing and another...
Nearly a decade later, Gwinnett begins $75M courthouse expansion
Nearly a decade later, Gwinnett begins $75M courthouse expansion

It’s been a long time coming — but it’s finally coming. “We’re moving forward,” Gwinnett County Chief Superior Court Judge Melodie Snell Conner said Tuesday. Gwinnett officials broke ground Tuesday afternoon on the first phase of the county’s long-delayed, $75 million courthouse expansion, a project...
More Stories