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Saturday, October 16, 2021

High fares from Doha due to lack of competition, suggests Qatar Airways CEO

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It’s not all in your head – flights beginning and ending in Doha on Qatar Airways are more expensive than flights transitting through the country.

That’s because of competition – or, rather, lack of it, QR CEO Akbar Al Baker said in a frank interview with Arabic daily Al Watan.

Essentially, the airline charges lower rates for transit passengers because they make up the bulk of the company’s business, he said, as translated into English by sister publication the Qatar Tribune:

“This is the rule of the game in a highly competitive market… Last year, about 22.5 million passengers used our airline and only 18-20 percent of them started their journey from Doha while the rest were transit passengers. If we increase the cost of the ticket purchased outside Qatar, we will be losing 80 percent of our customers.”

The inference, then, is that QR is not worried about losing its customers in Doha due to a lack of competition or options here.

High ticket prices have been one reason why Qatar’s national carrier has been the subject of a number of boycott calls from locals in recent years.

Boycott calls

The serving of alcohol in‐flight and under-representation of nationals in the Qatar Airways work force are among the other grievances.

Responding to the latter, Al Baker replies:

“When I joined there were only three Qataris in the company. I was the first person ever to try to get help from the state as it was a private company at that time and unattractive for Qataris. But now we have ambitious programmes which offer scholarship to Qatari citizens. We also have a number of Qatari pilots, engineers and administrative officials.”

Challenged to respond to the resignation of 35 Qatari pilots from the company, Al Baker replies:

“Those who left have gone to work for other national organisations. I’m proud of our people who can work in any other place but I can’t prevent any person from leaving us if they are going to get higher salary and better perks.”

Student fares

The company has also come under fire for not offering more discounts to Qatari students who are studying abroad. The airline is working on a plan to widen the benefits available, Al Baker said:

Students from Qatar are offered a fixed price for one flight a year but they keep coming home 4-5 times a year. We will be announcing a special price plan for students in February for them to be able to travel two or three times with some conditions, though.”

The lengthy interview also touches on delays to Hamad International Airport, an alleged reluctance to conduct interviews with local media, the airline’s growth (he forecasts a network of 170 destinations in the next three years) and the establishment of a subsidiary airline operating in Saudi Arabia.

And contrary to some reports, Al Baker confirmed that he has no plans to introduce a budget airline. 

Spies

Asked whether he uses “spies” within the company to keep him updated on events, Al Baker issues a strong denial:

We are not running an intelligence agency, we are an airline company. The reason why I know everything happening in the company is that I’m deeply involved in the smooth running of the company. I’m simply everywhere, talking to everyone, listening to them.”

The exchange ends with the interviewer asking Al Baker whether he thinks he’s the only Qatari qualified to run the airline. 

In my view I’m not the only one; there must be others,” he says. “I’m sure there are many individuals who can occupy that post. No one is irreplaceable. When my country’s leadership tells me it’s enough, I’ll leave.”

Thoughts?

Credit: Photo courtesy of Qatar Airways on Facebook

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