Al Baker Blames ETS ‘Mess’ on Former IATA Chief

 - October 29, 2012, 10:50 AM
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker held a wide-ranging discussion with reporters at a Georgetown restaurant in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Bill Carey)

The outspoken chief executive of Qatar Airways, an increasingly influential player in the world airline market, blamed the long-running battle over airline participation in Europe’s emissions trading scheme (ETS) on the former leader of the association that represents world airlines.

In a wide-ranging discussion with reporters in Washington, D.C., on October 24, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said that during his tenure Giovanni Bisignani, the former director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), kept member airlines in the dark about the consequences of the ETS. Bisignani led the association from June 2002 to June 2011, at which time current director general and CEO Tony Tyler took the helm.

“Frankly speaking, I would put the blame of this mess squarely on the doorstep of IATA, not the current IATA but the previous IATA administration,” Al Baker said. “[Bisignani] is the culprit because when the EU was starting to behave about the ETS, he should have raised the awareness of all the airlines and should have challenged the EU so he could have nipped the problem in the bud.” He alleged that Bisignani “kept quiet because he wanted to oblige his political mentor, the left-wing Romano Prodi,” a former prime minister of Italy and president of the European Commission.

The general assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which critics have also accused of foot-dragging on the ETS, will consider alternatives to the European Union’s carbon cap-and-trade scheme when it meets next September in Montreal. But Al Baker said he doubts that “ICAO alone will be able to resolve the impasse” with an alternative that is acceptable to the EU, the world’s airlines and their host countries. He said a solution would require a “concerted effort by large countries” such as the U.S., Russia, China and India.

On October 8, Doha-based Qatar Airways sent ripples through the industry when it announced plans to join the Oneworld marketing alliance with British Airways, American Airlines and other carriers within the next year to 18 months. Qatar Airways ranks as the second largest of the fast-growing Persian Gulf carriers after Emirates, and became the first Gulf carrier to join a global airline alliance. Al Baker said Qatar Airways plans to expand its current fleet of 114 aircraft to 170 in three years. It holds firm orders on another 250 aircraft worth some $50 billion. Delivery schedules call for the first of 30 Boeing 787-8s to enter the fleet on November 12.