Mar. 25, 2015


Akbar Al Baker

Qatar

Akbar Al Baker

Group CEO, Qatar Airways

BIO

Besides being the Group CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker is the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Arab Air Carriers Organization (AACO), a member of the Board of Governors of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and is a non-executive Director of Heathrow Airport Holdings (HAH). Born in Doha, he is a graduate in Economics and Commerce and worked at various levels in the Civil Aviation Directorate before becoming Qatar Airways’ Group Chief Executive in 1997. He holds a private pilot’s license.

How you do assess the inaugural months of the new Hamad International Airport?

The opening of Hamad International Airport was a moment of great symbolic pride for Qatar Airways, and we are seeing continued growth at our new home and hub since the start of its operations in May 2014. Hamad International Airport has distinguished itself as a world-class airport and a key global hub. The airport continues to add new facilities to its passenger terminal complex, including new duty free shopping outlets, a spa, swimming pool, squash courts, and much more to ensure passengers have a seamless and hassle-free journey. This is, of course, in addition to our luxurious lounge facilities, and a wealth of restaurants designed to suit every palate from around the world. Hamad International Airport is a destination in its own right, for passengers transiting through, or traveling to Doha as their final destination.

In 2014, Qatar Airways became a fully government-owned airline. How has this impacted the company?

From a small carrier just 17 years ago, into one of the world's leading airlines, Qatar Airways has grown tremendously from the vision instilled in the airline from the beginning by The Father Emir, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. As the national carrier of the State of Qatar, the national colors are already proudly displayed upon the more than 140 aircraft in the fleet. As such, we are a representative of our nation when flying the flag to all corners of the globe. Not only does this apply to our livery, but it is also symbolic of the five-star service we offer our passengers, through to the impeccable standards that we adhere to as a company—a reflection of Qatari values and hospitality.

Qatar Airways continues to expand its fleet and grows by around 30% YoY. In which geographic areas would you like to increase the Qatar Airways footprint, and which criteria do you use when selecting new destinations?

Qatar Airways has seen rapid growth in the 17 years since its launch as a regional carrier. In 2014 alone, the airline expanded its footprint in the US, adding further destinations of Philadelphia, Miami, and Dallas, increasing our gateways in the US to seven. Europe has seen the added locations of Edinburgh and Larnaca, while other routes have been de-linked, meaning that we now serve these destinations non-stop from Doha, such as Bali and Phuket. Africa has also seen the advent of new routes to Djibouti and Asmara, together with the de-linking of our Cape Town route, which previously went via Johannesburg. Our expansion into Africa will continue, but also Qatar Airways will continue to add new destinations around the globe and capacity on existing destinations as our fleet grows in number.

As Group CEO, you have said that the company's main goal of reaching the top-tier in the international airline industry has been achieved. Looking ahead, what have you identified as the main objectives?

We have made significant strides forward in recent years and continue to grow at a significant pace. Not only did 2014 see the opening of our new home and hub, Hamad International Airport, but it has also been a year of strong fleet growth, with both the A380 and A350 as new additions to our family of aircraft, and A320neo joining in 2015. Designed to support and sustain Qatar's historic development as a nation, Hamad International Airport is delivering an exponential increase in Qatar's capacity to handle international movements of people, goods, capital, knowledge, and technology. It is a vital element of Qatar's National Vision 2030. This growth will fuel our own expansion, as we focus upon new route destinations, fleet growth, and continue to bring our signature five-star service to all corners of the globe.