Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker declared in an interview with Al Jazeera television that the carrier is largely unaffected by the overflying ban issued by other Gulf countries. The ban has even a positive effect on the expansion strategy of the airline.
Confidence is certainly the trade mark of Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker. Even in tensed situation such as now, as Qatar national air carrier has seen its air space being blocked by neighbouring countries Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.
Al Baker appeared on Al Jazeera television network on Wednesday night to describe how Qatar Airways faces the current crisis. According to the airline’s CEO, disruption for the airline is minimal as 90% of all the flights are handled within a time span of 15 minutes to their original scheduled departure. According to a released statement from the carrier, about 1,200 flights have been operated in the past week without any major difficulty.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive lashed out the restricted access to air space of surrounding countries and call it illegal as countries follow an international UN procedure.”We call upon the International Civil Aviation Organisation to declare this is an illegal act”, he said on television.
Akbar Al Baker reiterated that passengers have nothing to fear of the current situation.”The vast majority of our network is unaffected by the current circumstances”, he stressed.
“We assured that all affected passengers have been rebooked or transfer to other flights when the crisis occurred. We now use the airspace over Iran to reach our destinations and if passengers still desire not to fly with us after booking their flight, we guarantee to give them back their money”, explained Qatar Airways CEO to the Al Jazeera TV network.
Qatar Airways has been forced to close 18 destinations, including close to a dozen cities in Saudi Arabia alone. However, Akbar Al Baker sees it now as an opportunity… to grow. “We are liberating capacities to grow our network. We plan to open 24 new destinations this year and we definitely have now the resources to make it a reality”, he stated to Al Jazeera.
It actually gives a chance to Southeast Asia to be soon linked to Doha and its network of 130 destinations. Among the destinations that Qatar Airways wants to serve in ASEAN are Medan in Indonesia, Chiang Mai and U-Tapao Pattaya. They should open within a year time. “As far as we are concerned, this is business as usual”, says a defiant Al Baker.
In another development, Oman Air, the only Gulf carrier with Kuwait Airways to continue to fly to Qatar, increased by 29% its capacity to Doha.