The recent ban on most electronic items onboard planes going from Doha to the US is simply a “security measure,” the CEO of Qatar Airways has said.
According to Reuters, Akbar Al Baker said this week that he did not feel the policy singled out GCC carriers.
“I don’t think it is fair for me to say it is targeting Gulf airlines,” he told reporters at a Qatar investment forum in London.
Since Saturday, electronic items larger than cell phones have not been permitted inside the cabin of aircraft flying to the US from 10 Middle Eastern cities, including Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Instead, passengers must check their laptops, iPads and e-readers, among other devices. Nine airlines are affected by the ban, including Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Etihad.
No US carriers were on the list.
Al Baker added that it was “too early” to say whether the policy would affect his airline’s profits.
However, Emirates’ CEO has been more vocal about the ban, calling it “disruptive and operationally challenging.”
Industry analysts have also suggested that business class passengers in particular may choose to book with carriers unaffected by the ban.
Questions about ban
American officials said that the new policy is temporary, and in response to concerns about terrorist attacks.
The UK has also implemented similar new rules, but excluded Doha and Dubai from its list of restricted routes.
This has prompted questions about whether the US regulations are partly designed to put pressure on the big three Gulf airlines.
For years, they have been the target of criticism from major US airlines.
Many claim that Gulf carriers are receiving unfair government subsidies and therefore damaging American businesses.
New Indian airline
Also this week, Al Baker offered more details to reporters about plans to establish a new, Qatar-owned domestic airline in India.
“It could be this year,” the CEO told Bloomberg in London. “It depends (on) how fast we can arrange our application.”
The carrier is expected to be funded by the Qatar Investment Authority and run by Qatar Airways.
The move was made possible by a rule change in India last June that allows 100 percent foreign ownership of Indian airlines for the first time.
Meanwhile, Qatar Airways announced last month that it had decided to drop plans to launch a domestic airline in Saudi Arabia following licensing delays.