Qatar Airways chief confirms airline now government-owned

Qatar Airways CEO

Qatar Airways

Qatar’s national carrier became wholly government-owned following last year’s leadership transition, the company’s CEO has said.

The airline has previously alluded to the change in Arabic signage around Qatar, and confirmed the move to Doha News last fall. But this is the first time Akbar Al Baker has publicly spoken about the restructuring.

Before the new Emir assumed power from his father, Qatar Airways was half-owned by the country’s former prime minister, Hamad Bin Jassim Al Thani (also known as HBJ) and other stakeholders.

Their stake was bought out by the government, and the airline had a new commercial registration issued in July, Al Baker confirmed today while speaking at a press conference at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.

The former PM, once a highly visible and vocal representative of Qatar, appeared to have left the spotlight when Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani became Emir in June 2013.

HBJ had also been the country’s foreign minister and chief executive of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA). His roles have been filled by Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani (PM); Dr. Khalid bin Mohammad Al-Attiyah (foreign minister); and Ahmad al-Sayed (managing director and CEO of QIA).

Qatar Airways’ status as a government-owned entity has made it a target of criticism from US and European airlines who say they can’t compete on equal footing, a claim Al Baker has scoffed at in the past.

At home, the change caused rumors to resurface that the Qatar Distribution Company (QDC), which is owned by Qatar Airways and the main distributor of alcohol in the country, would be shut down (it wasn’t).

Other announcements

Qatar Airways is not a publicly listed company on the stock exchange and does not regularly disclose financial information. However, Al Baker also said today that the airline plans to disclose its 2013 profit figures before September.

The CEO also lauded last week’s opening of the new, much-delayed Hamad International Airport, and reiterated that Qatar plans to receive its first Airbus A380 in early June, the first of 13 such aircraft on order.

The world’s biggest passenger airliner will fly from Doha to London, and can seat up to 517 people.

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