Tuesday 16 January 2018

Qatar plans to double Dublin service as CEO says US airlines want to 'swindle' customers

Dublin Airport Authority CEO Kevin Toland, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, and Qatar’s senior vice president Europe, Jonathan Harding,speaking at a press conference in the Intercontinental Hotel in Dublin yesterday
Dublin Airport Authority CEO Kevin Toland, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, and Qatar’s senior vice president Europe, Jonathan Harding,speaking at a press conference in the Intercontinental Hotel in Dublin yesterday
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

US airlines want to push Gulf carriers out of America so they can "swindle" passengers with higher fares, the controversial CEO of Qatar Airways said in Dublin yesterday.

He told the Irish Independent that claims by airlines such as Delta that Qatar Airways and other Gulf carriers are trying to dominate global aviation by using unfair subsidies is "frankly a load of bulls**t".

Mr Akbar Al Baker also said that if Qatar Airways - which also owns 20pc of Aer Lingus-owner IAG - cannot secure required approval from the American Airlines board to buy more than 4.75pc of the US carrier, then he will be content to hold just under the 5pc stake.

Mr Al Baker said that American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker told him recently that the board of the US carrier will not approve Qatar Airways' plan to secure a 10pc stake. The Qatar Airways boss said the company would start buying American Airlines shares on the open market "soon", once it receives regulatory approval in the United States to do so.

He claimed US aviation unions are opposed to Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad because they are "misled".

And he insisted that trying to buy shares in American Airlines would not create problems for Qatar Airways.

"It will be the other way around," he said, "because the unions will keep on getting frightened and will be anxious that Qatar Airways is buying. We are buying as an investor. They should be happy, the unions, that we have confidence in their employees.

"We don't want to influence them, we don't want to tell them how they have to work, we don't want to tell them how they have to run their airline, we don't want to tell them what product they have to put (in), we don't want to influence them - so what is the problem?"

Mr Al Baker insisted that the only reason for investing in American Airlines was to get a "robust return" on the investment.

Mr Al Baker also said that Qatar Airways, which has a 200-strong fleet, will add a second daily service to its new Dublin-Doha route once the load factor consistently hits 85pc.

He said that the load factor - or percentage of available seats the airline is selling currently on the once-a-day route - is five percentage points higher than what Qatar Airlines had anticipated.

He added that the aviation industry will keep growing despite Brexit.

The Qatar Airways CEO also likened the continuing blockade of Qatar by countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE, to Berlin's blockade by the Soviet Union 70 years ago.

Irish Independent

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