I don't employ spies - Qatar Airways boss

Akbar Al Baker defends heavy-handed approach to airline management
By Courtney Trenwith
Tue 29 Jan 2013 10:44 AM

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker has denied employing spies to monitor workers, while defending upsetting some staff with his heavy-handed approach.

Al Baker told Arabic newspaper Al Watan he was aware of all the day-to-day happenings at Qatar’s national carrier because he was so deeply involved in the airline's operation, and not because others were siphoning information to him.

“I don’t need the services of spies,” Al Baker said, according to an English translation by Qatar Tribune.

“We are not running an intelligence agency, we are an airline company. The reason why I know everything happening in the company is that I’m deeply involved in the smooth running of the company. I’m simply everywhere, talking to everyone, listening to them.

“Besides, we have a system for everything in place. So any issue related to safety and security or even engineering problems, our operation control centre would send a message to me and all senior managers, and at times I get to see the message before anybody else and react by contacting the manager concerned who may get upset with questions I would ask them.

“But that doesn’t mean I have spies.”

Al Baker denied he was aggressive, but said he expected employees to emulate his working standards.

“We need very energetic and motivated people,” he said. “We are the best airline in the world and we can’t afford to work with complacent persons.”

Al Baker, who has been Qatar Airways CEO for 15 years and led the airline to become one of the fastest growing in the world, denied the mass resignation of 35 Qatari pilots from the company was because of his management style.

“Those who left have gone to work for other national organisations,” he said.

“I’m proud of our people who can work in any other place, but I can’t prevent any person from leaving us if they are going to get higher salary and better perks.”

In an attempt to downplay perceptions that he was arrogant, Al Baker said he did not believe he was the only person capable of running Qatar Airways and he would step down when the country’s leadership told him to do so.

In other comments, he claimed foreign passengers were more lucrative to the company.

About 80 percent of Qatar Airways passengers were transiting through Doha, Al Baker said, responding to criticism among Qataris that ticket prices were more expensive for flights originating and ending in Doha than those transiting.

“If we raise the cost of the ticket no one will travel with us,” he said. “Doha has become an important international transit point and it’s growing.

“Last year, about 22.5m passengers used our airline and only 18-20 percent of them started their journey from Doha while the rest were transit passengers. If we increase the cost of the ticket purchased outside Qatar, we will be losing 80 percent of our customers.”

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