Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker has slammed European airlines’ claims that Gulf carriers unfairly grab market share while being boosted by government handouts.
He criticised the "whingeing tactics" which he said was driven by fear of healthy competition, Air and Business Travel News reported.
Addressing delegates at the Guild of Travel Management Companies' (GTMC) conference in Doha, he rejected a suggestion by Lufthansa chairman Christoph Franz that European airlines were handicapped by government policies in a way Gulf carriers were not.
He said the European airlines’ woes were not down to unfair competition from the Middle East but caused by heavily unionised work forces controlling business and EU governments penalising aviation to “beef up their shallow treasure chests".
Al Baker said the legacy carriers should “belt up and learn to face the real challenges of business today, and don’t shy away from competition".
“It’s been a David versus Goliath story. Once we were small fry, but we are becoming the Goliaths. We have capitalised on our strengths and unique global positioning. We have shifted the goalposts and now we are setting the agenda,” he added.
Al Baker's comments come just a month after he said he believes the EU is using its new Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) as a way of “covering up” inefficiencies in how it manages its finances.
Speaking at the Global Aerospace Summit, Al Baker labelled the scheme an indirect tax and reiterated his previous statement that the move would hurt Middle East airlines more than European carriers, as the former were bringing more aircraft into their fleets.
Last week, Emirates Airline took a new approach in its long-running battle to secure slots at Berlin and Stuttgart airports, brandishing before the government a study that contradicts claims it takes business from flag carrier Lufthansa.
So far, the Gulf-based carrier may only fly to four airports in Germany and its plans to expand have met with fierce opposition from Lufthansa, which claims Emirates benefits from unfair subsidies and is therefore distorting competition on the German market.