Qatar Airways: CEO Akbar Al Baker Strikes Again Against U.S. Carriers During Promotional Tour

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Qatar Airways and their CEO, ‘His Excellency’ (he goes by this title alone in aviation circles) Akbar Al Baker are on a big promotional tour, presenting their newest products including the Airbus A350 aircraft.

QR A380

During this promotional tour, CEO Al Baker fired once again against accusations by several CEO’s of American legacy carriers due to ‘unsubstantiated claims’.

Al Baker is known for finding direct, at times harsh words to his opponents. Especially if their arguments are at best vague such as constantly accusing the gulf carriers of being state subsidized and distorting market conditions.

Today In The Sky by USA Today (access here) has a detailed piece on the latest barrage of ‘His Excellency’ who once again singled out Delta CEO Richard Anderson, calling his accusations ‘baloney claims’.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker has a message for his counterparts at U.S. airlines.

“We are an airline focused on being the first and being the best,” he said during a press conference to celebrate the airline’s first flight of Airbus’ new A350 widebody aircraft to the USA.

Qatar flew its A350 to the USA for the first time with a special Tuesday flight from Doha to New York’s JFK. The carrier plans to show off the aircraft to media on Thursday. It already flies the aircraft to Frankfurt, Munich and Singapore.

The airline does not plan on stopping there. At the press conference at the Peninsula Hotel on Wednesday, Al Baker outlined the Doha-based airline’s ambitious plans for the USA, including new routes to Philadelphia and Los Angeles starting Jan. 1, to Boston March 16, and to Atlanta June 1.

A350s will serve the Philadelphia and Boston routes. The aircraft will also be used for a second JFK flight that will commence April 1. During an interview with USA TODAY after, Al Baker said he has two other U.S. destinations in mind, but could not name them yet. As of now, the airline offers service to seven U.S. cities.

This is BIG. Los Angeles is a huge market and Atlanta is Deltas hub and home base. Yes indeed, this time they strike where it hurts! And here it comes verbally.

“We believe travel is a transformative experience, unlike other airlines who treat it as a transaction,” he said.

It was a barely veiled jab against the largest U.S. carriers—American, Delta and United — which have waged a campaign against the three rapidly growing Persian Gulf airlines — Qatar, Etihad and Emirates. They argue that the Gulf airlines have an unfair advantage because they are subsidized by their governments. They have asked U.S. federal authorities to limit flights from the Gulf carriers.

Al Baker singled out Delta CEO Richard Anderson.

“I think that this is only baloney. It’s nonsense,” Al Baker said, of Anderson’s complaints. “And it is just to protect his backside so he can swindle American passengers more and more, reduce capacity, and keep on increasing his market share.”

“I am ready to challenge Anderson,” he said. “Let him come face to face with me in any forum, and I will hang him on the wall.”

Still, when asked about his harsh tone later, Al Baker was unapologetic, arguing Delta overcharges for its product.

“I always have harsh words for people who I feel distort the facts from his own people,” he said.

Let’s say it like this. Qatar Airways has a fantastic product in the air and their lounges in Doha are nice but I had the experience of a small irregularity last week and have to say they are as flexible as a steel pole when it comes to rectify a situation. And that on a paid Business Class ticket.

Nevertheless, he is somewhat right. When have you flown a U.S. carrier recently (in premium class), thinking ‘This is really worth the money spent’?

Conclusion

I have a feeling this feud between the U.S. legacy carriers and the ME3 Gulf Airlines (Emirates, Qatar, Etihad) will go on for some time and we are in for more amusing scenes. I for one would love to see such a forum and a live discussion between H.E. Al Baker and CEO Anderson.

If you agree or disagree with these arguments is one thing but lets not forget one thing. These planes Qatar Airways flies are mostly full. Or at least solidly booked. And the fares not not peanuts anymore either so it boils down to an airline that makes significant investments in their product and who sells their tickets at realistic prices. I can see why the traditional U.S. carriers don’t like that!

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