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Tue 26 May 2015 06:33 PM

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If you want Qatar contracts, give us flight slots, says airline CEO

Qatar Airways chief Akbar Al Baker makes comments as Dutch gov't takes tougher line against growth of Gulf carriers

If you want Qatar contracts, give us flight slots, says airline CEO
Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways. (AFP/Getty Images)

In handing out lucrative public procurement contracts, Qatar is likely to favour countries whose airports grant take-off and landing slots to state-owned Qatar Airways, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

The remarks by Akbar Al Baker, in Amsterdam to launch a new six-times-a-week route, may fan the protests of western carriers that Gulf competitors have unfair advantages because of their close relationships to their governments.

He said the Qatari government would undoubtedly take note if the airline, one of a trio of Gulf carriers that have shifted the industry's centre of gravity eastward, were not awarded the extra slot it is seeking in order to fly seven days a week to and from Amsterdam Schiphol.

"If you do not allow us to benefit in a small way by bringing flights, you should not expect commercial contracts from the government," he said.

Earlier this month, the Dutch government said it would temporarily stop granting new slots at Schiphol to Gulf airlines, promising a tougher line against possible "unfair competition" from the Middle East.

That stance, if maintained, would prevent Qatar Airways from getting the extra day it wants.

"My government will definitely not be happy... (Royal Dutch) Shell is one of the biggest single investors in the country and there are some $150 billion in infrastructure projects coming up in the next years," Baker said.

While he later stressed that he had no direct influence over public procurement decisions, he said Qatar offered rich pickings for western companies in the run-up to its hosting of the 2022 soccer World Cup.

Decisions about cargo-carrying slots are likely to be at least as important in the airline's thinking as passenger slots, with Qatar now by some measures among the world's top 10 freight airlines.

US carriers Delta, United and American Airlines want a temporary freeze on new Gulf airline services to the United States to protect them against more than $40 billion in domestic subsidies they say Qatar, Emirates and Etihad have received in the past decade.

But, comparing the American carriers' frequent sojourns in chapter 11 bankruptcy to a state subsidy, Baker said the government's equity holding was the only support he received.

Europe's flag carriers had enjoyed government equity holdings for most of their history, he said. "And we are still a young airline," he added.

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sly summers 4 years ago

European airlines crying about unfair competition reminds me about American car markers crying foul about Japanese imports in the 80's.

Flew KLM yesterday- flight was delayed, seats narrow, food horrible and in flight system didn't work.

I just wish they could improve their product and services and stop complaining whining about Gulf airlines.
Next thing they will start complaining about Gulf Hotels offering better hospitality and warmer weather

DDK 4 years ago

Wow, this is the Ceo of the most prominent organizations in Qatar blurting out threats and all and I'd like to add not for the first time and they believe they can match up to UAE. Lol, sure thing!

John 4 years ago

Fare game. He's correct. If GCC carriers are threatening the market due to customer preference because of better customer service levels, newer fleets and improved customer comfort levels, then these airlines can improve their own airlines instead of whining. I recently flew a full A380 Emirates flight, don't these airlines understand how important presentation is to their customers. People are booking flights based on the plane now. If GCC carriers are attacked like this, and further are barred from expansion from western airports, then the GCC should cancel all Boeing contracts and other large scale contracts from these countries. In the end we customers will continue to choose GCC carriers - they can't bully us to fly their rundown carriers. I know that I prefer Airbus planes over Boeing planes and will fly on routes that are serviced by Airbus.

Ed B 4 years ago

As usual, the CEO of Qatar Airlines is very outspoken, and does not even shy away from threats... Not clever!

This does not take away, that stopping Gulf Carriers from flying to the West is a bad decision. Customer should choose.

European Airlines are inefficient managed and they do not renew their fleet fast enough. Not like the Gulf Carriers! The product offered by the gulf airlines is far better. As a Dutch, I would love to support KLM by flying them, but I always choose Emirates... Why? Simply because Emirates is in nearly everything better. Easier online booking process; more standard baggage allowance (30kg! vs 23kg), Economy is way more comfortable and spacious, especially in the A380, better in-flight systems; and always new aircraft. And when comparing pricing, Emirates is very competitive compared to KLM. After ordering more leg space, and additional baggage allowance, KLM tickets are even more expensive than Emirates where it all is standard...

Billy 4 years ago

People keep commenting on the open skies policy being all about better service from Gulf carriers. It is not. The whole point is whether the Gulf airlines have breached the terms of an agreement. Everything else is superfluous to the whole issue. If they have breached the agreement then like any contract it becomes null and void. If they have not breached it then it continues to be in force. Simple. So lets stop confusing the issue, get some open and transparent evidence on the table and fairly judge the real issue. Everyone can then move on.

Lanuk 4 years ago

If you wish to see how Gulf based airlines treats customers from a market where they have a high share of the market, take a look at flights to India.

Last week I flew to Kolkata (a 5 hour flight) where the A320 aircraft did not even even screen on each seat and the flight was over 90% full.

This is the result of India based airlines unable to compete against the Gulf based and a similar outcome can be expected in Europe / North America.

Lastly talking about government contracts - all Qatar government related contracts already stipulate the people and cargo working on those contracts have to be transported using Qatar Airways.

AlexT 4 years ago

@John
I agree they should all(GCC carriers) cancel their orders with Airbus and Boing even return the existing stock (that would show them) immediately. I'm sure then they can get together, Not, and build their own airplanes, can't wait.

procan 4 years ago

Yes, thats a great plan teach the westerns a lesson. Cancel every Boeing , AirBus order . No will mess with GCC .