By Neil Halligan
Al Baker slams actions of Delta Air Lines, branding CEO as unpatriotic
Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al Baker has ruled out plans to introduce US pre-clearance for flights from Hamad International.
Pre-clearance has been introduced at Abu Dhabi International airport and according Al Baker, the new service has led to delays to flights to the US.
“I will not have pre-clearance in Doha and from what I know, Dubai will not have that,” Al Baker said, speaking at a press conference at Arabian Travel Market.
“Quite simply, my job as an airline is to take passengers from point A to point B, on time, and what happens there in the immigration is not my problem. If I start doing pre-clearance in Doha and my aircraft constantly arrives late into the US, which is happening now with Etihad, I'm obliged to provide accommodation to my customers who misconnect, because they never asked us to pre-clear. This is something we generated, so I would rather take the passenger on time to their destination and then what happens in immigration and customs is not my problem. I don't want to create another confusion or delay by pre-clearing passengers,” he added.
Earlier in the day, Al Baker spoke at a conference at the event and outlined his views on the ongoing spat between US airlines and Gulf carriers. He said he’s travelling to the US next week to meet with government officials, after which he has he will speak to US media and outline his thoughts in full.
“We are disappointed at this. I don't want to really talk too much about hits subject because I'm going to meet the government officials in Washington next week. But after that, I am going to open the books, and confront them, but until I have spoken to the government, apologies I don't to pre-empt my discussion,” he said.
Al Baker did, however, have some choice words about Delta CEO Richard Anderson, claiming he was being unpatriotic.
“I want to say in very clear terms, Mr Anderson is not a patriot of his country because what he is doing is stifling the interest of the travelling public in the United States. He is very single-minded in looking at himself. He still feels that he is a prosecutor - he was previously prosecutor before he came to Delta. He thinks that everybody is a criminal but he is forgetting his own backyard,” said Al Baker.
“I'm not going to mince my words and I am going to meet the press. I think Mr Anderson has never seen a CEO that will be so direct, so insulting and absolutely to the point to expose him. He is working against the interest of his own country. He has no dignity, he has no ethics, he has, in my frank opinion, a weak personality and is only hiding behind all this nonsense, misleading his government in a big way. I will go to the government in a very clear way, in a very precise way, in a very direct way to show them the misleading information,” he added.
Similar to Emirates President Sir Tim Clark, Al Baker said they will take their time to respond to the US claims. “We need, as they did, two years,” he said.
Al Baker said the US also had questions to answer about subsidies. He insisted they had nothing to hide and reiterated that any funding they received was an equity stake investment.
“If he (Anderson) is talking about subsidy, Delta should have been closed because it was bankrupt. If American Airlines are talking about it, they were bankrupt. US Airways, I don't know why my alliance partner is jumping into this story. He was bankrupt twice in a period of 18 months. United was bankrupt - so they were all bankrupt and now they're talking about subsidies for us,” he said.
“It's not subsidies for us. It's proper government equity in a company that is owned by the sovereign fund of my country. So what's the problem? The problem is when you start flying 767-200s around, which is a 35-year-old aeroplane and stopped production two decades ago, fooling your customers, of course he can complain.
“I don't think his argument will stand. I'm sure the government of the United States will look at the bigger picture, their economic interest and the 1000s of jobs that our aircraft products brings to the industry - much more than he creates in Delta,” he added.
Al Baker said if anyone should be complaining about competition, it should be IAG’s Willie Walsh, who has all three Gulf airlines in competition with route to London and the UK.
“We have an open sky with London. He should be that should be screaming the most. Actually he is absolutely positive about the competition and he has no issue,” he said.