The Airline Executive of the Year Wants to Create a New Mega Carrier

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al Baker was just named Aviation Executive of the Year by the CAPA Centre for Aviation. Which is kind of like when he was the French Legion of Honor.


Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker with Donald and Melania Trump in 1997, via Doha News

Subsidized airline Delta’s complaints about Qatar receiving subsidies aside, Akbar al Baker’s stupid running of the mouth, and his straight up untruths he’s certainly managing the carrier through difficult waters in the face of a Saudi and UAE-led blockage of his country and political scheming against him by competitors in the U.S.

Now it seems with his acquisition of a stake in Cathay Pacific he says he wants to create an equity alliance kind of like Etihad failed trying to do, albeit investing in better airlines than air berlin and Alitalia.

Qatar Airways wants to create a virtual mega-carrier that will benefit from economies of scale in negotiations on fuel and aircraft purchases while it boosts investment in other airlines, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

…Al Baker said that Qatar Airways wants shareholdings to be exchanged between itself and its portfolio airlines as it seeks to become a virtual mega-carrier.

“I see a lot of synergies we could bring as a group,” he said, referring to savings to be gained from the envisaged increase in bargaining power.

“I hope that one day in the not too distant future we all, these four groups, get together and exchange shareholdings in each other so that we will become a real mega-carrier. That is something that some people have tried, but not successfully.”


Qatar Airways Airbus A380 Business Class Bar

Qatar owns 20% British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus parent IAG as well as 10% of South American oneworld carrier LATAM and 49% of Italy’s Meridiana. He talks about ‘combined buying power’ resulting from such an alliance though he already squeezes suppliers mercilessly by refusing aircraft deliveries over minor gripes, although it’s possible Qatar pays a premium (or al Baker tax) for the way he does business.

Meanwhile Akbar al Baker says the US President must do more to end the Saudi and UAE-led blockade of Qatar though the Saudi pre-emptive anti-coup suggests that the US continues to embolden Qatar’s adversaries.

I’m not sure I agree with CAPA’s assessment of the man but there’s no more interesting or colorful person in aviation. I can’t wait for his next followup to claims like ‘Delta flies crap airplanes’ and that the major US airlines’ executives ‘are sitting around smelling glue’.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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