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Friday, March 5, 2021

Al Baker: Qatar Airways won’t bite off more than it can chew in India

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Photo for illustrative purposes only. Credit: Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways made waves this week after its CEO announced plans to enter the fast-growing Indian market via a wholly-owned domestic carrier.

But in a possible jab at a Gulf competitor, Akbar Al Baker has pledged to take that expansion one step at a time.

According to the Financial Times, he said:

“We want to do (this) one by one, step by step, so that we don’t put so much food in our mouths that we cannot chew, like some airlines did before.”

“Some airlines” could be a reference to Abu Dhabi-based Etihad, which has invested in some struggling European carriers, the FT reports.

It added that the Indian market is an important one for Gulf carriers because it offers a growing clientele.

Pushback

Earlier this week, Al Baker told reporters that he plans to operate a full-service airline in India, not a budget one.

It would initially operate 100 single-aisle aircraft such as Airbus A320s or Boeing 737s, he added.

Qatar Airways 737 Max. Credit: Boeing

The move comes after India’s government relaxed requirements for foreign investment in the country.

Qatar Airways has yet to apply for the appropriate license, but domestic carriers in India are already pushing back.

According to Indian publication Mint, they are lobbying against the carrier for several reasons.

These include:

  • Reciprocity concerns, as Qatar does not allow foreign carriers to launch their own wholly-owned airlines in Doha;
  • Unspecified questions about national security; and
  • A strong belief that control of the aviation sector remain in local hands.

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