Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al Baker has questioned comments made by the Secretary General of the Association of European Airlines about the dramatic rise of Gulf carriers and their impact on the global aviation industry.
In the statement the CEO of Qatar Airways said that comments made by Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus at a meeting of the International Aviation Club in Washington DC were “factually incorrect and unfounded”.
Al Baker defended the strategy of the UAE and Qatar to use its flag carriers as part of a national strategy and a “tool of a vertically integrated economic chain”, saying that “the position of the US has consistently been to preserve the national identity and ownership of the US airlines”, and pointing towards the “billions of Euros that are allowed under the EU laws to pump into airlines for ‘restructuring purposes’”.
He said that comparing the international wide-body aircraft order book of Gulf carriers with that of US airlines is “extremely erroneous”, as “the backbone of the US air transport industry is domestic operations”. He added that “in order to maintain the lowest cost in seat mile, and the greatest appeal to customers, our order book is higher than elsewhere because we maintain a young fleet”, and said that this strategy has been applied “extremely successfully by the airlines of the Asia Pacific”.
Al Baker said that Schulte-Strathaus “is requesting governments to prevent additional market access [to Gulf carriers] in the short term”, and questioned whether governments should therefore resort to “protectionism, inefficiencies, cartel price fixing, and anti-consumer behaviour”.
He concluded by saying that “European airlines were pioneers in a large number of areas. We in the Gulf airlines community have learnt a lot from them. They should accept competition and that the customer being in the driver’s seat.”
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- To read Alex McWhirter’s special report on the growth of the Gulf carriers, see New World Order in the December / January issue of Business Traveller.
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