Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al Baker – known for his controversial opinions – is back in the headlines after he gave The Times an interview where he gave British Airways a rating of 2/10, comparing it to a low cost carrier.
In the past Mr. Al Baker was a vocal critic when it comes to the competition, especially the U.S. and European carriers that were constantly lobbying against the ME3 in their home markets.
Now in a setting where he as asked to comment on the international aviation market and his competitors Al Baker didn’t have very high regard for British Airways, a carrier (group) that Qatar owns 25% of.
You can access The Times article here (only accessible with subscription).
Many airline bosses are smoothies — global diplomats with pocket squares, silky language and effortless charm. Akbar Al Baker, who runs Qatar Airways, is not like many airline bosses.
In the course of just 45 minutes from his boardroom in Doha, he dismisses British Airways as a “two out of ten” carrier; accuses Dubai of becoming a Covid-19 superspreader and lambasts arch-rival Emirates as a gas-guzzling dinosaur; says any airline that offers premium economy is ripping off its customers;
He also warns that “the good times” for airline passengers are a thing of the past.
On the topic of British Airways Airways Al Baker appeared especially disappointed with former CEO Alex Cruz who had cut back on too many perks and transformed the airline into a quasi low cost carrier.
The reporter asked him how many marks out of ten he would give BA and his reply was prompt: “Two. They have lost their focus!”
“British Airways is the flag carrier of the UK. You remember the motto? ‘To fly, to serve’. That was not any more the motto of the company. It was only on a billboard.”
He did express optimism about BA’s future under their new CEO Mr. Doyle, saying “He’s a very good leader. He has my confidence!” Al Baker is however extremely critical of Doyle’s decision to push further into the Premium Economy market segment.
Al Baker has in the past talked about U.S. carriers as being “crap” and that they’d hire/keep grandmothers as flight attendants.
He did later apologize for framing it that way though.
Akbar al Baker, commonly known as “His Excellency” is always very outspoken, especially when it comes to issues he truly cares about. There are definitely no words minced but that makes him a straight shooter and is certainly right on the money here when it comes to British Airways performance. Especially while it was under the reign of Alex “Penny Pincher” Cruz.
I believe that despite all the flak he gets for his straight talk he’s one of the very few visionary CEO’s in the industry who isn’t just there for the money. He’s become an extension of the Qatar Airways brand and people associate his persona directly with the airline, for better or for worse. How many carriers can say that?