By Neil Halligan
Al Baker confident US laptop ban will be resolved by Trump’s administration
On the day it announced plans to launch flights to San Francisco, Qatar Airways CEO insisted that the carrier has no plans to reduce its capacity on any of its routes to the United States.
Akbar Al Baker, CEO of the Doha-based carrier, said it will continue with its expansion to the US market, with demand on its flights remaining "robust".
“Qatar Airways does not plan to and will not review its frequencies to the United States,” he told a press conference at Arabian Travel Market.
“There was some decline, which means 'something manageable’. We didn't have massive declines like other carriers. We still have robust loads in the United States and we will continue our commitment to our passengers in the United States.”
He said Qatar Airways' expansion would also continue to other destinations around the world, noting that of the 14 new destinations announced at the Dubai travel trade fair, only one was to the US.
“The United States is not the entire world. We have a lot of other opportunities and new markets that we will keep expanding in to,” he said.
“This 26 destinations that we have announced [during the entire financial year] is not the end of the list of destinations that we have up our sleeve. We will be announcing again at the next ITB another chunk of very exciting destinations.”
Al Baker’s comments come after Emirates announced plans last week to scale back capacity as of May on five of the 12 US routes it serves, citing the country’s tightening visa restrictions and a ban on carrying personal electronics from its Dubai hub.
Speaking this week, Emirates president Tim Clark said the airline hopes to restore capacity to routes in the United States "sooner rather than later".
Clark said he was optimistic that the laptop ban would be temporary, saying he hoped to be able to persuade the US that Emirates' high level of security measures mean "we can do job for them".
Al Baker said he also expected the ban to be a temporary measure. He said the problem was mainly caused by uncertainty surrounding passengers from certain countries who have been issued with visas by US embassies.
“The problem with the traffic to the United States is principally caused, not for anything other than uncertainty by certain nationalities of passengers who are unsure that even after having a visa issued by the embassy of the United States in their country that they may not be allowed to enter the United States,” said Al Baker.
“I'm sure that these uncertainties that passengers have will soon be resolved by statements form the United States government.”
He said the knock-on economic impact will force Trump to make changes, citing repeated promises the US president made about promoting jobs and prosperity.
“I am sure that stable minds at the end will prevail and that a new strategy will come from President Trump's office in order to encourage people to travel the United States.”
He confirmed that the carrier’s plans to launch a route to Las Vegas remains on track, but has been delayed due to “technical reasons”.
He said he expects the route to be launched during Q2 next year.