Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker believes the conflict between Qatar and its Gulf neighbor shows no sign of abating, accusing at least one of the principles in the dispute of conspiring to intimidate suppliers, manufacturers, and banks into declining to do business with his country. Speaking during a Farnborough Airshow roundtable discussion with reporters at the Qatar Airways chalet (C24), Al Baker added that he thought the situation has deteriorated in recent months, perhaps making the airline's efforts to return to profitability by the end of this year still more challenging.
“At the end of the day, it is a business decision companies have to make...where they have an interest,” he said. “But they should also know that if they oblige the adversaries, when things get back to normal we will remember them.”
Al Baker added that his adversaries’ underhanded efforts have met with mixed results. “In some ways they are succeeding, but a lot of times they are not succeeding because those entities are saying this is our business and it’s up to us with whom we do business,” he explained.
Meanwhile, the blockade of Qatar by its Gulf neighbors continues to disrupt the airline’s operations, for example increasing the flying time to São Paulo, Brazil, from Doha by an hour and 45 minutes. “Unfortunately one of the blockages is Yemeni airspace, which is controlled by Saudi Arabia. Keep in mind that Yemen is a sovereign country, but its airspace [is] controlled by a third country. Again, this is where the role of ICAO comes in.” ICAO, explained Al Baker, should not allow Saudi Arabia to issue notams on behalf of another country absent a UN mandate.
Despite the roadblocks his airline faces, Al Baker expressed optimism about the airline’s financial performance this year after suffering heavy losses last year. “There is a possibility that we will post a loss in this financial year, but it is only a possibility,” he said. “Fortunately, the routes that we have launched have been so good we feel they are maturing faster than we expected.”