Despite the pandemic and supply chain problems, Qatar Airways reported a rare industry profit of $1.5 billion over the past fiscal year.
The aviation industry will experience disruption for years as companies gradually recover from the toll of the pandemic, Qatar Airways’ CEO warned.
Contributing factors including labour shortages in Europe, delays in aircraft deliveries from manufacturers and a lack of spare parts, Akbar Al Baker added, saying the aforementioned have affected Qatar Airways itself.
“Covid has damaged the supply chain of the industry […] I think that it will last for a couple of years. It is not going to go away tomorrow,” he told the Financial Times in an interview.
The comments came as the chief executive of Airbus last week said he expected “supply chain issues” to pour over to next year, with manufacturers grappling with shortages in raw materials, spare parts and electronic components.
Particularly, staff shortages in Europe is one such complications that is plaguing Qatar Airways’ activity and flight disruption, Al Baker said, adding that it exerts a “knock-on effect” on the “airline’s Doha hub.”
This month Heathrow airport made an unprecedented decision to implement a two-month cap on daily passenger traffic to inhibit travel havoc prompted by staffing shortages in key areas such as ground handling.
Representing the Qatari sovereign wealth fund on the Heathrow board, Al Baker told Bloomberg Television he understood that the hub is confronted with staffing problems, however was “disappointed” by its lack of foresight, calling the passenger cap “very difficult to digest”.
The move, which saw thousands of bags pile up at the airport, “angered” airlines that were forced to clear out flights during the peak summer season.
One such frustration was echoed by United Arab Emirates flag carrier Emirates President Tim Clark who suggested he would abstain from adhering to those restrictions before ultimately reaching an agreement.
“Heathrow has the right to restrict your flight because they cannot overload their facilities,” said Al Baker.
“But my question to the management would be, they should have seen this coming and they should have taken mitigating actions.”
Qatar Airways is also the largest shareholder in the International Airlines Group (IAG), which owns British Airways, making Al Baker an “influential figure in UK aviation.”
British Airways has also struggled with disruption complications this summer.
“IAG has a huge potential, and I’m sure that in a not too long time they will turn around and be what they were pre-pandemic,” Al Baker said. “Keep in mind that they are doing a lot to improve standards and services,” he added.
IAG’s shares are “trading at about 70% below their pre-pandemic levels” with British Airways forced to slash approximately 30,000 flights this year due to its own staffing issues and disruption at airports.
Separately, Qatar Airways and Airbus have been in a legal headlock over the A350 wide-body jets damage surfaces, prompting the airline to ground more than 20 of the jets.
He said the dispute, however, will not “stop him from buying more Airbus aircraft in the future.”