Fascinating: Richard Quest Interviews Akbar Al Baker

Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker, is one heck of a guy. I’m never quite sure what to make of him.

On one hand, I believe he’s one of the most passionate people about the airline industry that you’ll find anywhere in the world. I also believe he has probably contributed more to putting Qatar on the map than just about anyone.

But there are also many things about him I take issue with. He makes empty threats, he says some ridiculous (degrading) things, and he’s known to make a lot of dishonest and baseless statements.

His most recent threat was that he claimed Qatar Airways would leave oneworld because they’re being “bullied” by American and Qantas. The thing is, I don’t actually disagree with the substance of what he’s saying, but he has been making this threat as far back as 2015, so we all know it’s not true.

Anyway, Richard Quest is my favorite journalist who also happens to be an aviation geek, so he tends to cover airline stories more closely than just about anyone else in the mainstream media.

On Friday’s “Quest Means Business” program, Quest interviewed Al Baker in person, and it was a fascinating interview, as you’d expect. Quest has a good understanding of all of these issues, so asks some questions others probably wouldn’t know to ask.

I also love the dynamic between the two. Quest always knows how to ask probing questions, while Al Baker always answers everything as if it’s completely black-and-white.

So if you have a few minutes, check out this very interesting interview. It goes beyond Al Baker’s threat to leave oneworld, but he also addresses his thoughts on Saudi Arabia (in light of the diplomatic dispute), as well as his thoughts on Khashoggi’s murder, as it relates to his country.

Here’s the video:

What do you make of what Al Baker had to say?

Comments

  1. @ Ben — I watched this “live,” and I was impressed with Al Baker, especially his comment regarding “now who is practicing terrorism?” Bottom line is it is difficult to imagine QR leaving OW. Then what? They are sort of trapped. I suppose they could try to join *A?

  2. What’s more likely? Usa, Australia, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Maldives, Mauritania,Djibouti, Senegal, Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen are all individually bullying and treating Qatar unfairly…or…Qatar cheating and lying pisses a lot of people off?

  3. The journalists from BBC are exceptional. They plunge the knife and twist it abs make sure the interviewee gets no free pass. American journalists on the other hand are subservient or liars (fox) to not as aggressive (liberal media)

    If trump insulted the woman journalist she should have insulted him back and should have been supported by her editors, publishers. Stop giving Republican white men a free pass.

  4. @Debit
    Which BBC journalists “plunge the knife and twist it abs make sure the interviewee gets no free pass.” Examples please.

  5. Rob – You can’t seriously be that dense?

    Those countries aren’t “individually” doing anything to Qatar. Most of those countries are part of the anti-Iran club, lead by Saudi Arabia and the US.

    I have no idea what Australia is supposedly doing that counts as bullying, nor several of the other countries you’ve listed?

  6. He probably tends to cover aviation stories for CNN a lot because he is the CNN Aviation correspondent. Just a hunch!

  7. Great interview. Quest asks solid questions and didn’t back down. I do find it interesting that so many OW members are owned partially by Qatar. Those that aren’t partially owned by Qatar (most notably American and Qantas), Akbar has serious reservations about. If Akbar can’t buy and control them they are a problem to Qatar in his mind.

    As a side note, Quest famously turned down an offer to join Al Jazeera when they began to operate their English network in the UK. For those who don’t know, Al Jazeera is another entity that is totally controlled by the Qatari government like Qatar Airways. Quest has said in the past that he turned it down because of their anti-gay and anti-semitic sentiments.

  8. @Todd
    I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a CEO say, “it’s not about the money”.
    Now you know he’s lying.
    ——————————-

    That, and his lips moved.

  9. “Qatar never violates an agreement that it signs”. Bloody lies.

    Last May 27th, without notice, without warning, done in the secrecy of night, you devalued your agreement with your “Not very Privileged Frequent Fliers”. Violated an agreement. So lies.

    So don’t sit there in an interview, waving your finger at the interviewer, lying to him by saying you never break an agreement. The hide of you.

    May 27th, 2018: The greatest raid on your frequent flyer customers accounts. You violated our agreement.

    By more than doubling the points required to claim an award. Violated an agreement. So lies.
    By making it impossible to upgrade using those bloody Q Credits. Violated an agreement. So lies.
    By charging up to $ USD50 per sector to make an award booking. Even for the most loyal Platinum customers. Violated an agreement. So lies.
    By reducing the number of points available when crediting points. Violated an agreement. So lies.
    By closing down the call centre so no one can talk to you people. Violated an agreement. So lies.
    By making the Business Class Lounge at DOH not available to passengers flying Business on a rare award ticket. Violated an agreement. So lies.
    By making it almost impossible to book a partner One World ticket online ( if you want one of those folks, request it online, and wait 2-3 or 4 days for them to decide if the flight is available ). Then QR 9 times out of 10 will come back to you saying no availability even though you may have checked the partners website yourself and seen loads of availability. Violated an agreement. So lies.

    The ignorant mis-use of the language and the sheer audacity by calling this destruction of the program “Enhancements”. Done overnight. No notice, No warning. Violated an agreement. So lies.

    So like I said Mr, don’t sit there in an interview, waving your finger telling people “Qatar never violates an agreement that it signs”. The hide of it.

    The airline has been lying for years about its financial health and lying about the massive subsidies it gets from the owners of the State of Qatar.

    And in our Western culture Mr, waving or pointing your finger at someone is very rude. So stop doing it.

    Just imagine if one turned up to your BKK Lounge and was refused entry, even though flying Business, was a Platinum member and was wearing dress shorts and neatly attired and what an affront that is to QR and how rude that is to you people.

    Pointing your finger is an even greater affront to westerners.

    So go on champion, leave One World. We bloody dare you. We bloody dare you. Do us all a favor. Then you’ll have no customers left except a mob of Qatari’s. Not even Saudia, Egypt, UAE, Bahrain, Yemeni’s will fly with QR LOL.

    So the idle threats to leave One World are lies. More lies, more idle threats in what is becoming a very long list.

  10. “Qatar never breaks an agreement”. Oh? What about starting to enforce OW lounge access rules, then?

  11. Al Akbar is certainly impressive in the flesh. Thanks for posting this video. He’s tough, passionate and well informed, not some rubbery hack run by attorneys and the corporate PR team. The specific business issues are beyond my understanding, but I enjoyed seeing a executive so focused and energetic about what he obviously loves to do.

  12. Credit where credit is due the Qatar premium inflight product is amazing very few airlines in the world can match them in my opinion let’s hope Qatar keeps moving a head and setting standards that other airlines can only dream about and passengers love……

  13. Robbo – Glossing over your complete breakdown there, which agreement specifically did they violate? I highly doubt they were contractually obligated to provide all those things.

  14. At the beginning when AAB says “…trying to pull the carpet from underneath us and having relationships with other airlines.”

    Is he referring about American Airlines and Etihad? Feels like it would be a sore topic.

  15. “Great interview. Quest asks solid questions and didn’t back down. I do find it interesting that so many OW members are owned partially by Qatar. Those that aren’t partially owned by Qatar (most notably American and Qantas), Akbar has serious reservations about. If Akbar can’t buy and control them they are a problem to Qatar in his mind.”

    Qantas partnered with Emirates rather than Qatar because it had a bigger route network – fair enough. But as I understand it Qantas is using its influence with the Australian government to push additional slots (that Qatar would like) towards Emirates instead – there was an article about that on OMAAT a few weeks ago if I recall correctly.

    American’s problem with them seems odd too, given that they have partnered with Etihad in the past. The US3 don’t compete all that much with the ME3 directly and themselves have obtained all kind of government subsidies that aren’t available in most other countries, so as far as I can see American are just using the toxic US political system to try and benefit themselves.

    I’d much prefer to see both Qantas and American working together with Qatar – for all its faults (and there are many) and the faults of Qatar (again, there are many) it’s a great airline.

  16. Great interview. He owned Quest.

    Wether an airline is owned by people or government they might need additional funding.

    So did SAS, releasing pref shares, while being close to bankrupt. Only difference, they would have let individual people suffer their savings to save them, airline is still owned and supported by government.

    In my opinion the US weapon export and military bases in the ME makes a bigger point here, that’s why they’re wining. Just put out a great product, but, when will we ever see that from a US airline? Selling weapons to Saudi is more important…

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