Under Al Baker, Qatar Airways transformed from a small company with a fleet of four aircrafts to one of the aviation industry’s leading names.
Akbar Al Baker has stepped down from his position as the CEO of Qatar Airways on Monday after 27 years of service, sources privy to the matter confirmed to Doha News, just one day after he was replaced as chairman of Qatar Tourism.
Al Baker announced his resignation and reflected on the airline’s “extraordinary” journey in a letter sent to Qatar Airways staff and seen by Doha News. The Qatari official confirmed the decision would be effective from 5 November.
“I look back on the years with immense pride. You have not only made me, but also my beloved country proud. I want to express my deepest gratitude for the trust and confidence you’ve placed in me over the years,” Al Baker said in the letter.
He added: “My successor will be announced by HE the chairman of the board.”
In an official statement sent to Doha News, Qatar Airways confirmed he would be replaced by Badr Mohammed Al-Meer, who serves as the current CEO of Hamad International Airport.
Al Baker, who also served as chairman of Qatar Tourism, was replaced with Saad bin Ali Al Kharji after an order by Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani just a day earlier on Sunday.
Since being appointed as Qatar Airways’ chief by Father Amir Sheikh Hamad bin khalifa Al Thani in 1997, the country’s leader at the time, the business giant has taken the airline miles high to becoming an industry leader under the vision of “setting the standard for quality international travel”.
Under Al Baker, Qatar Airways transformed from a small company with a fleet of four aircrafts to one of the aviation industry’s leading names, with more than 200 aircrafts flying to more than 130 destinations.
Throughout his journey, Al Baker soared through major turbulent times that rocked aviation both domestically and internationally, most notably the 2017 blockade on Qatar and the Covid-19 outbreak.
A transformative journey
Born in Doha in 1962, Al Baker’s education started at the St. Peter’s boarding school in Maharashtra, India before pursuing his higher education at the Sydenham College of Economics & Commerce in Mumbai, where he earned a degree in Economics and Commerce.
The Qatari entrepreneur’s early career started off in the travel and tourism industry at the Qatari Bin Yousef conglomerate, which covered tourism, cargo, investments, real estate, catering and distribution, and facilities management.
The Qatari flagship airline was still in its early days by the time Al Baker was appointed. He set up a 10-year growth plan in order for Doha to establish its wholly-owned air transport system to avoid depending on neighbouring carriers.
By 2003, Qatar Airways expanded its fleet from four aircrafts to 28, then 42 in 2005, 110 in 2015, before exceeding 200 in 2019. Under Al Baker’s leadership, Qatar also expanded its destinations from 56 in 2005, 70 in 2015, to more than 160 at present.
In turn, Qatar Airways’ net profits skyrocketed to $14.3 billion with assets of $41.4 billion in the fiscal year that ended in 2022, per the latest figures by Forbes.
Over the years, Al Baker became the CEO of numerous divisions of Qatar Airways, including: Hamad International Airport (HIA), Qatar Aviation Services, Qatar Aircraft Catering Company, Qatar Duty Free among others.
Qatar Airways had also witnessed many “first’s” throughout Al Baker’s time in office.
The Qatari airline introduced Qsuite in March 2017, an upgraded version to the Business Class which included the aviation industry’s first-ever double beds, providing passengers with a luxurious and private flying experience.
Qatar Airways was also the launch customer for the Airbus A350-900 in 2014 and the A350-1000 in 2018, and the launch customer for the Boeing Dreamliner 787 in 2015.
Al Baker’s efforts were recognised in 2015 by then-French president Francois Hollande, who awarded the aviation executive the Legion of Honour.
He was also named the chairman of the board of governors of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the ‘Aviation Executive of the Year’ by the CAPA Centre for Aviation in 2017.
Al Baker earned the Joseph Murphy Award by Air Transport World in 2022. He was then ranked as the second top in Forbes’ annual “Top 100 Travel & Tourism Leaders 2023” in the region.
Hamad International Airport
Meanwhile, the inauguration of the state-of-the-art HIA in 2014 represented a key milestone for the entirety of Qatar as well as Al Baker’s career as an aviation official.
HIA reached 37 million passengers within a single year, a figure that exceeded its initial capacity by 10 million, 90% of which were handled by Qatar Airways. A total of 100 take-off and landing movements occured every hour, representing five airplanes every three minutes.
By 2019, Al Baker announced plans to expand HIA’s capacity to 53 million under the two-phased expansion before the 2022 FIFA World Cup kickoff in order to welcome an influx of fans from around the globe.
The airport was voted by Skytrax as the ‘World’s Best Airport’ in 2021 and 2022 consecutively, and the second-best in 2023. HIA had received the ‘Best Airport in the Middle East’ title nine consecutive times as well as the ‘World’s Best Airport Shopping’.