Qatar 777-200LR artwork (Source: Australian Aviation archives) Qatar Airways has declared itself the world’s largest carrier in recent months, on the back of a strong repatriation focus throughout the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement released on Tuesday, Qatar chief Akbar Al Baker claimed the airline to have repatriated 1.8 million individuals worldwide since the beginning of the outbreak. Though the airline did not specify which metric it is now the largest by, Al Baker said that the airline has operated over 15,000 separate flights, spanning some 50 million kilometres. Airline size is typically measured against revenue passenger-kilometres (RPKs) or a net passenger count. US-based carriers like Southwest Airlines and American generally top IATA figures released annually for these measures. However, recent months have seen repatriation and cargo activity bolster Qatar’s operations, while larger North American and European airlines have faced a downturn. In May, aviation consultancy group OAG announced that China Eastern was the largest airline in the world by seat availability. Qatar’s repatriation push has been enabled by biosecurity innovations at Hamad International Airport, which recently raised eyebrows with its trial of temperature-screening robots and helmets. Advertisement Advertisement “Qatar Airways is a carrier that has been recognised as the World’s Best Airline on five occasions by Skytrax, built significant goodwill with governments and embassies as we assisted stranded citizens and most importantly, been available non-stop for stranded passengers during the pandemic,” said Al Baker. “We have been here 24/7 during the darkest days and will continue to be a friend in need as confidence returns and people restart their travel plans.” Like other airlines around the world, Qatar is looking to begin rebuilding its network in time for the northern summer season. By the end of June, the airline plans to expand its global network to 80 destinations.