Since June 2017, there has been a blockade imposed on Qatar by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. This move had a massive impact on air travel within the country. However, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker has affirmed that these incidents have only made his airline and country stronger.
Speaking at The Trinity Forum, of which Qatar was the host this year, Al Baker shared how the state-owned carrier and nation responded. Qatar’s aviation market was in the middle of a switch of operations from the old Doha airport to the new Hamad International Airport.
Then when the blockade happened, Qatar was blocked from operating over the airspace of its hostile neighbors. This not only had an impact on tourism but also on resources and supplies. Therefore, the airline and cargo industry had to revamp its approach.
Al Baker was surprised by the actions of his country’s neighbors as he viewed them as close companions. Nonetheless, he soon realized that the time had come to step up.
“In the beginning, it was a great shock because it was done by people who we thought were part of our greater family. We never expected that these countries had a vicious agenda against a small country like Qatar. But it has made us be the winner,” Al Akbar declared.
Al Baker is also the Secretary-General of the Qatar National Tourism Council. With this role, he has a further responsibility to reorder the infrastructure of his nation’s aviation market.
“Every single Qatari, and every single resident of Qatar today has seen what a very forward-looking, stable, intelligent and most importantly, mature leadership can do to its people. Even against a massive challenge, we have stayed calm, we have stayed composed and we have held our head high and protected our sovereign dignity,” he continued.
“To sum it up, I can only say one word and that is victory for my country. It was the perfect wake up.”
The executive went on to explain how his airline swiftly adapted to the events, sharing that it is operating at a larger scale than before.
“Even six months before we transferred to the new Hamad International, we already added construction to the old airport. But it happened so coincidentally that these crazy people blockaded my country at the exact same time when the airport was nearly ready and when Qatar Airways was still expanding.
“We lost 18 destinations overnight, and lost a $1.75 billion market but we didn’t shy from our expansion. We replaced the 18 destinations lost with 20 destinations and kept on receiving our airplanes. Then we also kept on planning our expansions.
“What happened to them? You can see the recession in their markets. You can see the airlines taking brand new airplanes and sending them to storage. While Qatar Airways is pushing both Boeing and Airbus to continue delivering to us. It shows that every single strategy of my country is a success.”
Still time for talks
Despite the heated tension within the region, Al Baker has affirmed that the door is open to the countries that have actioned the blockade. He said that if his neighbors take one step towards them, they will respond with a thousand steps forward. He said that his country has no evil intentions or plans against anybody. Ultimately, he said that his nation just wants to want to live, mind their own business and progress.
Qatar’s Hamad International Airport is going through a huge expansion, which will see over additional retail and food & beverage outlets. There will also be a tropical garden grown in the middle of the airport, along with a water feature.
These actions are taking place in time to meet the demand of the World Cup 2022. Furthermore, Doha’s old airport is also going through a renovation program to help conduct operations during this busy period.
Simple Flying is currently in Doha for the Trinity Forum event. We will update you with further announcements from the conference as they happen.
What do you think of Qatar’s response to the blockade? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.