Qatar’s state-owned national carrier could be turned over to private shareholders once its sharp growth starts to level off, the CEO of Qatar Airways has said.
Akbar Al Baker said that for the moment, however, government ownership is helping the airline to grow at its current rapid pace, according to a report by Gulf News.
“Once I have established myself as a very established carrier I wouldn’t mind (being privatized),” Al Baker said this week during a panel discussion at the Arab Air Carriers Organisation’s annual general meeting in Dubai.
Qatar Airways became 100-percent government owned following the country’s leadership transition last year. Before the new Emir assumed power from his father, half of the shares in the airline were owned by the country’s former prime minister, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Al Thani and other shareholders.
Government backing has led to accusations by American and European airline executives that Qatar Airways, along with Gulf carriers Emirates and Etihad, receive unfair state subsidies that enable them to steal market share from the most established airlines.
But some analysts have taken issue with that allegation, and it’s one that Al Baker has denied in the past. The CEO has also previously accused his competitors of poorly running their businesses and being hamstrung by union demands.
He repeated those sentiments this week, saying, according to AFP, “There is enough business … (The legacy carriers) are inefficient. It is the unions that should be blamed.”
Shrugging off the future fate of other airlines, he later added:
Al Baker: I want there to be 3 growing airlines in this region. Moderator: "And for the rest?" Al Baker: "I don't care." #AACO2014
— Will Horton (@winglets747) November 19, 2014
Meanwhile, earlier this week, Qatar Airways signed an agreement to add eight new Boeing aircraft to its fleet. The deal includes three 777-300ER as well as five 787-8 aircrafts.
The carrier currently has 27 of Boeing’s 777-300 planes as well as 14 of the smaller 787-8s in its fleet, with dozens more on order.
Earlier this year, Al Baker offered a spirited defense of the 787, which were temporarily grounded in January 2013 over worldwide safety concerns and were also the subject of a scathing documentary by Al Jazeera English, which outlined quality control problems with the planes and raised allegations of drug abuse by company workers.
Al Baker made those remarks during the much-delayed debut of Qatar Airways’ first Airbus A380 in September.
This week, Al Baker said the behind-schedule delivery of the Airbus A380s – which was prompted by the airline’s refusal to accept planes that contained what it deemed to be quality defects – cost the carrier US$200 million in lost revenue, according to Gulf News.
The newspaper said Al Baker was non-committal when asked if he would consider buying more of the double-decker planes.
“I cannot judge the performance of the A380 after one month,” he was quoted as saying.