FOREVER WORLD-CLASS

Qatar 2019 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

Qatar Airways is the fastest growing airline in the world and with a host of plans lined up for 2019 and beyond, it will continue to surpass expectations and set new benchmarks.

Akbar Al Baker
BIOGRAPHY
Akbar Al Baker has been instrumental in shaping the development of Qatar Airways into one of the fastest growing and most highly acclaimed airlines in the world. He 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). A highly motivated individual, Mr. Al Baker has been a successful businessman for more than 25 years, holds a private pilot license, and is also CEO of several divisions of Qatar’s national airline, these being Qatar Executive, Hamad International Airport, Qatar Aviation Services, Qatar Aircraft Catering Company, Qatar Distribution Company, Qatar Duty Free and Internal Media Services. 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 Officer in 1997.

The airline has become extremely important for Qatar to overcome the blockade. What has been the role of the airline in keeping Qatar connected to the world?

Qatar Airways has launched 24 destinations since the start of the blockade and continues with its significant program of expansion of new routes to further connect passengers around the globe. We currently connect more than 160 destinations every day through our Doha hub, the award-winning Hamad International Airport (HIA). Qatar Airways has launched an array of exciting new destinations recently, including Mombasa, Kenya; Da Nang, Vietnam; and Gothenburg, Sweden. The airline will add a number of exciting new destinations to its extensive route network in 2019, including Valletta in Malta and Isfahan in Iran, to name just a few.

What will be the priorities of Qatar Airways as a group over 2019?

Qatar Airways has a long-term strategy. We are growing and expanding at an aggressive rate, but through proper planning. We have many exciting new plans lined up for 2019. We will introduce our brand-new economy class seat in March, announce and launch new destinations, and continue to roll out our award-winning Qsuite Business Class seat to new destinations. We will also continue to roll out our state-of-the-art Airbus A350 aircraft and expand our 'Super-Wi-Fi' across our fleet. Qatar Airways is proud to be one of the youngest global airlines to serve all six continents, and thanks to our customers' response to our offerings, we are also the fastest-growing airline in the world. With more people travelling than ever before, our commitment to service is paramount.

How is Qatar Airways working to attract a bigger share of passengers to visit the country for longer and fuel the local tourism industry?

HIA is the home of Qatar Duty Free (QDF) and met several significant milestones in 2018, including being ranked thefifth-best airport in the world, fourth-best for shopping, and fifth-best for dining at the Skytrax World Airport Awards 2018. Notably, HIA also took home the title of 'Best Airport in the Middle East' for the fourth year in a row and 'Best Staff Service in the Middle East' for the third consecutive year. In order to boost tourism, in 2017, the Ministry of Interior (MoI), Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), and Qatar Airways announced that Qatar will allow visa-free entry for citizens of 80 countries, effective immediately. Moreover, Discover Qatar, the destination management subsidiary arm of Qatar Airways, announced in 2018 its latest selection of pre-bookable city and desert tours for transit passengers. Initially launched in 2015, the transit tours are aimed at passengers with a transfer time of between five and 12 hours at HIA. The latest selection of tours includes visiting key landmarks such as The Pearl-Qatar for the finest quality shops and restaurants; Katara Cultural Village, a center dedicated to celebrating arts and heritage; Souq Waqif, for traditional jewelry, spices, and handicrafts; and the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA). In addition, passengers can book a unique desert experience and visit Sealine Beach and the sand dunes of Mesaieed either in the exclusive off-road monster bus or a luxury 4x4 vehicle during their stopover. Alongside city and desert tours, transit passengers can also book the 'Stop & Shop' tour, which offers a chauffeur-driven car to the Mall of Qatar—home to luxury fashion brands and world-class restaurants.

How have you managed to bring Qatar Airways to its current form and, at the same time, put Qatar on the map?

Qatar Airways is renowned for its customer service and Arabian hospitality, striving to make every trip a pleasant and memorable one. Qatar Airways' on-board service features sophisticated meals designed by celebrated chefs, up to 4,000 entertainment options, and Wi-Fi via Oryx One as well as some of the most spacious seats in the air. Qatar Airways is proud to contribute to the National Vision 2030. We promote the State of Qatar and our brand through many prominent and prestigious international sporting events, such as the 2022 FIFA World Cup, of which we are the biggest sponsor.