By Claire Ferris-Lay
Market is underserved because of Canada’s ‘protectionist’ attitude, says CEO Akbar Al Baker
Qatar Airways will press for daily flights to four cities in Canada in a bid to muscle in on national carrier Air Canada’s long-haul market, the airline’s CEO said Wednesday.
“I think [Canada] is currently underserved, a lot of passengers are going through the USA because there are not enough airlines [offering] international flights out of Canada unless you want to go by Air Canada,” Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, told Arabian Business.
“We already have rights to fly to four cities in Canada but with only three frequencies a week so quite normally we would like at least a daily frequency to all of these four destinations.”
The Doha-based airline will launch its first route to Montreal on June 29.
Rival Gulf carriers Eithad and Emirates were denied fresh landing slots in November by Canada’s transport agency, sparking a widespread diplomatic row between the two countries.
The Gulf state retaliated with the closure of Camp Mirage, a secret military base located outside Dubai and used to supply Canadian troops in Afghanistan.
In December, the UAE Embassy announced Canadian citizens would no longer receive free visas. Instead, tourists must now pay up to $1,000 Canadian dollars to enter the country.
Canada’s protectionist attitude towards Gulf carriers is to the detriment of the passengers, said Al Baker,
“I think that Emirates request for additional rights to Canada is legitimate. Qatar Airways will be asking for additional flights because, quite simply, there is a protectionist tendency towards Air Canada,” he said.
“I think it is in the interest…..of the traveling public for Canada to have competition of high quality airlines like us and Emirates,” he said. “I think once there is a new government in Canada that they will look at it in a more favourable and more business-like atmosphere.”
Qatar Airways has made no secret of its ambitious expansion plans. Along with Gulf rivals Etihad and Emirates Airway, Qatar Airways is one of the largest buyers of new aircraft, with orders for 80 Airbus A350s, 60 Boeing 787s and five Airbus SAS A380s.
The airline, which sees its fleet size growing to 120 aircraft over the next two years, is also in talks with Airbus to purchase additional A380s, CEO Akbar Al Baker said Monday.
The state-backed airline said in March it would hire 11,500 new staff over the next three years to keep pace with an expansion plan that will see it serve 120 destinations by 2013.
Qatar Airways, half-owned by the state's sovereign wealth Qatar Investment Authority, also said this week it plans to acquire a third of European air cargo company Cargolux.
The airline said in December it would launch an initial public offering (IPO) in early 2012 after three consecutive years of profit.
Mr Akbar, thank you for your concerns over Canadian travellers not having enough choices for their international flights.
But you are way too kind and please note that Canada, USA and Europe together we have enough airlines and we don't need your support from the middle east.
Mr.Rahim. How can you speak on behalf of all travellers..."WE..."
I am sorry, I do need more choices. Air Canada is the worst airline I have traveled. European airlines except a couple are equally bad, no comparison to Emirates or Qatar Airways. Wish you all the best QA...
You have enough airlines which are using out-dated hardware, have a hideous mixed bag of software and are stuck in rut with overly-generous FF programmes.
The only reason AC don't want the ME airlines landing in their airports is their superior product.
Why not let the consumer have the choice of who they fly with?
Dear Rahim, I appreciate your advocate stand, but what you are stating is completely wrong. See, it's not about opinions but studies confirming exactly the opposite of what you said. There is huge demand for additional flights and possibly of competition. You'd like to live in a place where there's no competition? I am European and I can tell you clearly that thanks to competition today consumers have a choice and far better services than they had before. And the same was stated by many Canadians firends of mine. Either we are not sharing the same friends or your response was dictated by emotional feelings and not rational thoughts which I suppose it's not right. All the best!
@Tomas: why not extend the principle of competition to other sectors say Telecom in the UAE to provide more options to subscribers. Surely there is an opportunity for a 3rd party operator as in not owned by the same entity as is the case currently.
please stay in middle east, we don't want you in north america.
air canada has the most up to date technology inside every single aircraft and there is no reason to have a foreign company coming here, stealing our jobs. Plus Qatar Airways is government owned so the competition is not going to be fare.
Good luck trying though, but if you followed the elections, the same government that blocked Emirates has not majority power in canada for the next 4 years. Good luck, you really need it.
The Canadian government has to protect it's carrier, as any oil rich emirate would be protective of their oil industry and be very restrictive of how foreign companies would operate in that space. If Air Canada ends up with bad losses, it would then be for the Canadian tax payers to bear the cost of restructuring, as has been done in the past. So what I see here is the Canadian government is allowing a certain amount of competition, but not allowing foreign airlines to come in without any control and take over all the business. Many of these airlines work in unregulated employment markets, and certainly have an advantage.
A lot of people seem to misunderstood. There is NO huge demand for additional flights between Canada and UAE/Qatar. Emirates/Etihad/Qatar only want the transit traffic from Canada to South Asia.
stop polutting news with these pointless articles. Canada will never let a government owned airline from middle east to come and take away canadian jobs.
Prime Minister Harper, please keep Qatar Airline away from Canada... the same way you did to Emirates.
I do not want to sound like a conspiracy theorist. having studied world aviation for over 30 years; here is my take on the Emirates and Quatar dilemma.
They have both embarked on an agressive expansion plan with lots of planes and lots of seats to be sold. The only way they can fill their planes is by creating routes to all major countries in the world with unrestricted landing rights and feed all the passengers through their Middle Eastern Hubs.
Maybe they are subsidised by their Sheikdoms and maybe not. In order to succeed they need more than money and local political support to pull this off.
I wish them good luck and if their landing rights are denied, they can impose visa restrictions on all the countries who do not grant them what they so desperately need, unlimited landing rights.