High-fliers

We won't let SIA close the gap: Qatar Airways chief

Mr Akbar Al Baker says Qatar Airways is constantly raising the bar in a big way.
Mr Akbar Al Baker says Qatar Airways is constantly raising the bar in a big way.

With the "who's who" of the global aviation community in town for Singapore Airshow 2016, The Straits Times caught up with some of the high-fliers to gain an insight into issues affecting the industry.

The second of the four people featured this week is outspoken Qatar Airways chief executive officer Akbar Al Baker.

Q Do you see any problems with yields (the profit made from each passenger) and traffic growth?

A We see a downward pressure on yield, especially since there is a downturn in business. All the airlines are trying to keep their market share by dropping their yields. I think this is unwise because it is a very short-term vision of how they should conduct their business. At times when you have competition that is not caring about the yield, to keep your market share you have to compromise part of your yield too. But for Qatar Airways, there is a limit beyond which we will not go, even if our competition goes below that.

Q You previously said Qatar is better than Singapore Airlines? Do you think the gap has closed or widened?

A We will never allow the gap to close. They will have to (play catch-up). Qatar Airways is constantly raising the bar by far, in a big way. While SIA is getting new products into their airplanes, we are also developing new products. As a matter of fact, we are not only developing products, we are also taking intellectual property (IP) rights. We are patenting our designs so no airline can copy them without a licence from Qatar Airways.

Q Why is there a need to patent the products?

A Many of the concepts that we have put in our airplanes were copied by other airlines. We have decided now that we will get an IP on all new products that we are putting in our airplanes. When we launch (the new products) at the end of the year, you will see. They will be launched across our fleet on our wide-bodied planes.

Q Are you serious about pulling out of Oneworld alliance (members include British Airways, Qantas, Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific)?

A We have issues with them. As far as I am concerned, for the time being, our partners are not reacting against us the way they were initially reacting. As long as this continues, we are fine. But if we see that there is no relationship, a want (of) relationship between the alliance and major alliance partners, then there is no point in us being in the alliance. But we will not join another alliance. Instead, when we have made several acquisitions, we will create our own alliance.

Jermyn Chow

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2016, with the headline 'We won't let SIA close the gap: Qatar Airways chief'. Print Edition | Subscribe