Qatar Airways is likely to post an annual loss after a Saudi-led blockade of its home nation forced the airline to cancel some routes and divert others, CEO Akbar Al Baker said.
The second-biggest Gulf carrier is working on substituting the 20 or so lost flights for roughly the same number of viable new routes and should then return to profitability, Al Baker said in an interview Tuesday, adding it’s too early to predict how big the loss will be. Net income at the Doha-based group rose 22 percent to 1.97 billion riyals ($525 million) in the year through March.
“It is painful because there are many routes that slide as much as 2 1/2 hours longer, and there are routes that are narrow-body routes where we had to convert to wide-body in order to carry enough fuel to go the longer distance,” the CEO said in Singapore.
All told, Qatar Airways has lost almost 11 percent of its network and 20 percent of revenue, he added.
Al Baker’s comments are his frankest yet following the imposition of trade and transport barriers by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE in June. The blockade has led to the scrapping of several short-haul flights, while many intercontinental services have been rerouted because of airspace closures, making flying times less competitive and increasing fuel burn.
Al Baker has previously insisted that the measures against Qatar have had a minimal impact on his company. He continued to strike a defiant tone over the embargo, saying that the Gulf state will “stand up” to the pressure and “not sacrifice our sovereignty and our dignity,” while calling on President Donald Trump to intervene on behalf of one of the US’s “main allies in the region.”
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