The Business Year

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Akbar Al-Baker

QATAR - Transport

Fleet Street

Group CEO, Qatar Airways


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, namely Al Maha services, Qatar Executive, Hamad International Airport, Qatar Aviation Services, Qatar Aircraft Catering Company, Qatar Distribution Company, Qatar Duty Free, and Internal Media Services. 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.

"Qatar Airways operates one of the youngest fleets in the sky."

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 be 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 600,000 sqm 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 programmes to our Qatari recruits, as well as sponsoring 23 majors. Qatari young men and women alike come to work for us with great aspirations and we put them on individual pathways to success and a rewarding career in aviation. Every national recruit has a performance coach who has been trained by the Air Business Academy (ABA) to support and nurture them for the first two years within the business, helping to build a foundation of professionals and develop future leaders.

In what ways do the Qatar Airways subsidiaries add value to the overall product and service offering of the group?

Operating one of the world’s leading airlines requires the support of a number of ground service and subsidiary companies, of which the Qatar Airways Group is uniquely placed. Operating under one collective and cohesive group, Qatar Airways is able to grow at an astounding rate with the knowledge and support of its subsidiary companies, namely the Qatar Aircraft Catering Company, Qatar Aviation Company, Qatar Airways Cargo, and Al Maha Services to name just a few. Qatar Airways Cargo was recently ranked the third-largest cargo operator globally, attesting to its massive operations with the newly opened cargo facility at Hamad International Airport. This collaborative growth of our subsidiary companies, in line with the goals and aspirations of the airline itself and the support of our new home and hub Hamad International Airport, allows Qatar Airways to go from strength-to-strength each year of our relatively short history.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

Our aim is to keep exceeding passengers’ expectations and to explore new ways to introduce product excellence and innovation in how we deliver our five-star signature service on board. Qatar Airways was recently named at the annual Skytrax World Airline Awards as Airline of the Year for a third time, a proud accomplishment for an airline to reach multiple times. The highest ranking in the annual Skytrax awards category, Airline of the Year is a marker of the commitment and dedication to service excellence and a high-quality travel experience for all passengers that fly with Qatar Airways. It is a reflection of the five-star caliber service that Qatar Airways is renowned for, and is a success that we will continue to build upon in the year ahead and into 2016. Aside from this, 2016 will be a year of expansion with more frequencies to existing gateways and new destinations, expanding to even more opportunities for travellers. 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.



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