AKBAR AL BAKER

Qatar 2020 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

Winning the world's best airline award for a record five times is no mean feat, but it sure is a testament to the commitment, drive, and perseverance of Qatar Airways' staff.

Akbar Al Baker
BIOGRAPHY

Akbar Al Baker is CEO of Qatar Airways and one of the most recognizable figures in the global aviation industry. His vision and commitment enabled the ground-breaking development of Qatar Airways from a small regional carrier into one of the world's leading global airlines. In 2017, he became the chairman of the board of governors of the International Air Transport Association. Al Baker is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Arab Air Carriers Organization and a non-executive director of Heathrow Airport Holdings. In 2019, he was appointed secretary-general of Qatar's National Tourism Council (NTC).

Qatar Airways recently was recently recognized as the best airline of the year for a record fifth time. What are the reasons behind the growth of the company?
The success of Qatar Airways is down to one reason—our customers are our number-one priority. We take into consideration every detail, no matter how small, in order to deliver a superior passenger experience, and that is why at the 2019 Skytrax World Airline Awards, we were awarded the highest accolade of 'the World's Best Airline,'becoming the only airline in the competition's history to win it five times.

What have been your main areas of focus and milestones in the last few years?
In the last financial year, our fleet continued to make headlines as we acquired 25 new aircraft. As of 30 September 2019, our current fleet comprises 203 passenger aircraft, 24 cargo, and 24 Qatar Executive jets. These additions have enabled us to expand our network, including exciting new passenger destinations such as Davao, Izmir, and Lisbon, along with new all-cargo destinations such as Macau and Almaty. We also continue to set the benchmark in the industry with the unveiling of our new economy class experience at ITB Berlin in March 2019. The new economy class seat—the rollout of which will begin in 2020—will ensure that our passengers arrive at their destinations feeling rested and refreshed. Our new in-flight dining experience 'Quisine' redefines the economy class service with a new retail-style tableware, a more diverse menu, and bigger portion sizes. Economy class passengers will also be able to enjoy improved connectivity, including up to 10 times faster broadband, larger screens, 19-degree recline system, additional legroom, dual trays, 13.3-inch, 4K widescreens, and a new fast-charging USB port.

Hamad International Airport was ranked as the fourt-best airport in the world at the Skytrax World Airport Awards 2019. What is your opinion of Qatar's potential as a regional aviation hub?
At the Skytrax World Airport Awards 2019, HIA moved up in its ranking to become the fourth-best airport in the world while maintaining its five-star status as the best airport in the Middle East for the fifth consecutive year and best staff service in the Middle East for the fourth consecutive year. Since beginning operations in May 2014, HIA has served over 175 million passengers, establishing itself as a major global air transport hub. Between April 2018 and March 2019, the airport served 34,938,250 passengers from 163 destinations. HIA has also started the second phase of its terminal expansion plans to accommodate 53 million passengers annually by 2022. Plans are in place for the construction of an airport city, which will provide significant future investment opportunities, including a free trade zone, an office and business complex, and hotels. HIA will also see the construction of a new cargo terminal to help accommodate the expected surge in freight traffic.

What will be the role of Qatar Airways in ensuring that Qatar has the capacity to manage the influx of arrivals with the 2022 FIFA World Cup?
Our state-of-the-art fleet continues to be one of the youngest and most modern in the industry. We receive a new aircraft on average every 13.5 days, enabling us to continue our aggressive route expansion strategy and provide our passengers with increased connectivity across the globe. This aggressive growth will ensure we have the capacity available to bring people from all over the world to celebrate the World Cup.

What is the aggressive growth plan of Qatar Airways for 2019-2020 based on?
Qatar Airways is still a young airline; however, the achievements we have made in this short time frame are a tribute to the commitment, drive, and perseverance of our staff and nation. I am optimistic that our growth will continue and that we will serve even more countries around the world. Gaborone, Botswana, Luanda, Angola, and Osaka will soon be added to our network.