The Business Year

HE Akbar Al-Baker

QATAR - Transport

Fleet Street

CEO, Qatar Airways

Bio

HE 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, named Airline of the Year 2011 and 2012, and runner up in 2013, by global industry audit Skytrax. Al Baker is the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Arab Air Carriers Organisation (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, Al Baker has been a successful businessman in Doha for more than 25 years, holds a private pilot license and is also CEO of several divisions of Qatar’s national airline. 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 CEO in 1997.

TBY talks to HE Akbar Al-Baker, Group CEO of Qatar Airways, on maintaining a young and innovative fleet, expanding routes, and goals for the future.

How significant has Qatar Airways’ fleet program been to the overall success of the company?

Qatar Airways operates one of the youngest fleets in the sky, which includes the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Airbus A380 and, as the global launch customer, the Airbus A350 XWB. These aircraft offer passengers a superior cabin environment, one which reduces the symptoms of jet lag and fatigue associated with long-haul travel. By also offering Wi-Fi connectivity and the latest cabin design enhancements, passengers can choose to either create an office in the sky or relax while enjoying more than 2,000 entertainment options on our newly launched Oryx One inflight entertainment system. Having one of the world’s youngest fleets, with an average aircraft age of no more than four years, also leads to lower emissions and contributes to Qatar Airways’ environmental commitment and responsibility.

What potential does the Asian market represent to Qatar Airways and what is the regional strategy going forward?

Qatar Airways has undergone unprecedented growth in its 18 years of operation, and it is set to continue, with significant growth in Asia throughout that period. Asia is an important and strategic market for Qatar Airways and it is for this reason we chose Singapore as one of the first inaugural routes for the latest generation A350 XWB aircraft, of which Qatar Airways was the Global Launch Customer for. On June 1st, 2015, a third-daily frequency to Singapore was added, and all three Qatar Airways daily flights to Singapore all operate with the A350 WXB, increasing overall capacity on the route in 2015 by 67%. With the progressive addition of the A350 XWB and the increase in capacity, not only are more passengers able to experience our award-winning product, but they also benefit from shorter transit times for onward connecting flights to and from Europe, Africa, and the US. This is complemented by the opening last year of our new hub and home, Hamad International Airport, which enables our passengers to enjoy a comprehensive, five-star experience at the world’s newest international gateway. Hamad International Airport provides a seamless, hassle-free travel experience for our passengers, from check-in and passport control right through to boarding. The opening of the new airport has also resulted in expedient, convenient transfers for connecting passengers. Hamad International Airport can connect passengers through with a minimum connection time of 45 minutes or less. The airport boasts over 600,000sqm of space, 40,000 of which are dedicated to 70 top-of-the-line retail outlets and 30 food and beverage options. Additional features include a 200-room hotel, a spa, squash courts, activity nodes, and art installations throughout the terminal.

How has Qatar Airways played a role in achieving the government’s initiative of Qatarization?

At Qatar Airways, we understand our responsibility in playing a pivotal role to foster and nurture the talent of Qatari youth wishing to develop a career path. We also acknowledge that we need them to build upon the foundation and to develop the future of the company, which is why we have created individually tailored programs under the talent development program called Al Darb, or “The Pathway,” to bring out the best in an individual, playing to their unique skills and strengths. We offer 9 different tailor-made development programs to our Qatari recruits, as well as sponsoring 23 majors.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

This will be a year of expansion with more frequencies to existing gateways and new destinations, expanding to even more opportunities for travelers. In January 2016 we will launch direct flights to Los Angeles, with further gateways to Atlanta (June) and Boston (March) added shortly after, together with upgrading our service to Philadelphia to operate with an Airbus A350 XWB, and the launch of double-daily flights with this same aircraft to New York in the spring. We know how important it is to have a network that takes our passengers to their destination as swiftly and comfortably as possible, with the best available aircraft in the skies, which is why Qatar Airways will continue to grow while not compromising on our high standards of service.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

You may also be interested in...

Hossam Farouk

QATAR - Telecoms & IT

Hossam Farouk

Interview

CEO, Qatar Computer Services (QCS)

Neville Bissett

QATAR - Transport

Neville Bissett

Interview

CEO, QTerminals Group

Abdulla Mubarak Al-Khalifa

QATAR - Finance

Abdulla Mubarak Al-Khalifa

Interview

Group CEO, QNB

View All interviews