Qatar's Al Baker 'doesn't care' about smaller GCC airlines

Airline boss also says he is open to privatising Qatar Airways when its rapid growth stabilises
By Staff writer
Sat 22 Nov 2014 03:21 PM

Qatar Airways boss Akbar Al Baker has said he “does not care” about smaller GCC airlines as he and Emirates and Etihad become international frontrunners.

During a panel discussion at the Arab Air Carriers Organisation annual general meeting in Dubai recently, Al Baker said he wanted there to be three “growing airlines” in this region.

When the moderator asked him what of the others, including FlyDubai, Arab Air, based in Sharjah, Oman Air, Gulf Air in Bahrain and Kuwait Airways, Al Baker said: “I don’t care”.

During the same discussion, the often outspoken airline chief also said he was open to privatising Qatar Airways once its rapid growth stabilised.

The airline began fully government owned last year when the country’s former prime minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Al Thani and other shareholders sold their shares.

“Once I have established myself as a very established carrier I wouldn’t mind (being privatised),” he said.

The heads of Oman Air, Paul Gregorowitsch, and EgyptAir, Sameh Al Hefny, also floated the idea of privatisation.

Government ownership has led to criticism from European and American airline bosses, who claim Gulf-based companies have been able to claim significant slices of the global air travel market because of government support that includes hefty loans, gas subsidies, low tax and cut-price airport access fees.

Al Baker said their operations were to blame, not the Gulf carriers.

“There is enough business... They are inefficient,” he said, according to AFP.

He also pointed the finger at workers’ unions.

“It is the unions that should be blamed,” he said.

Al Baker said European countries intervened far more than the US to protect home carriers. “EU without doubt,” he said, naming France and Germany in particular.

“We have problems in France, Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere... Stirred by two individual countries: Germany and France,” he said.

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