Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker has warned Boeing that manufacturers that “don’t oblige and stand with us in these difficult times will not see us again.”
The comments came following successful negotiations with Airbus on delaying new aircraft deliveries. The European airframe maker proved itself “very flexible” in giving Qatar the opportunity to delay deliveries of its new A350s-1000s and A321neos while offering the airline the option to bring them forward again if the industry recovers faster than anticipated, Al Baker told attendees at the CAPA Australia Pacific Aviation Summit on September 2.
The airline continues discussions with Boeing on its orders, which include 777Xs, 777 freighters, 787-9s, and 737 Maxes ordered for Air Italy, the former Qatar-owned airline that suspended operations and liquidated in February.
Al Baker also criticized carriers that have accused Qatar in the past of accepting state aid, while doing precisely that via their own governments. “All of the airlines that were challenging us are now doing the same,” he says. As a government-owned entity, Qatar has “every right” to seek assistance from its government, Al Baker pointed out. “When an owner injects money into a business it’s not a subsidy, but equity,” he said. Some airlines seek and accept government assistance while continuing to lay off staff and restructure their businesses, in effect using state aid for “cleaning their house,” he remarked.
Al Baker named Lufthansa as leading the effort to stop the European Union from signing a comprehensive air services agreement with Qatar under negotiation for the past four years. “It’s nothing more than stifling competition,” he claimed.
Qatar has continued passenger flights throughout the pandemic and now ranks as the “biggest international airline in the world,” according to Al Baker. “It’s our duty as an airline…to serve our passengers in the good times and bad times,” he said. Now operating 700 flights a week to 95 destinations, the airline wanted to increase the number of cities in its network to 120 by mid-October. However, Al Baker blamed “too much uncertainty” surrounding airport closures for a change in plans.
Lack of uniformity in health and quarantine requirements rank as the biggest challenge Qatar currently faces in its operations, he added. Al Baker is calling for unified action on health requirements by the World Health Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization, and the International Air Transport Association so that airports can reopen safely and efficiently and lend confidence to passengers who feel “lost” when it comes to the different requirements.