On the opening day of ITB Berlin – the world’s largest international travel fair – the chief executive of Qatar Airways, Abkar Al Baker has once again warned his airline will likely suffer losses for the year ending April 2018. Baker first made news of the potential loss public in February and has pretty much repeated himself at every media event since.
Now, in reports carried by Gulf News, Baker is reported as saying Qatar Airways will suffer a “very large loss” for 2017/2018 – the airline is likely to blame a political dispute with a Saudi Arabian-led bloc of countries which has seen Qatar Airways forced to withdraw from a number of important markets.
Of course, this being an announcement made by the colourful Baker, there were also some controversial comments which followed as well – with Baker saying his airline would have to find new “funding streams” as Qatar Airways doesn’t have access to an equivalent of US Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines were forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 saw losses quickly mount up. The protection allows airlines to continue to fly as normal as they restructure, renegotiate agreements and reduce costs.
In 2011, American Airlines also filed for bankruptcy as it racked up losses of more than $10bn since 2001.
The comments by the Qatar Airways chief exec can be seen in the context of an ongoing dispute between major U.S. airlines including American, Delta and United and the Middle East Three (ME3) – Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways.
The U.S. airlines claim the ME3 have received $50 billion worth of illegal state subsidies between them – forcing U.S.-based carriers to cut services to the Gulf and reducing their presence in India. While the ME3 claim they haven’t done anything wrong, they’ve also been quick to point to apparent double standards.
In what is one of the nastiest fueds in the aviation industry, Qatar Airways has made some concessions of late, opening up its books to public scrutiny for the first time while the President of Emirates, Sir Tim Clark recently said U.S. airlines “need to grow up“.
Not that Qatar Airways is acting like an airline which is about to post a record loss. Also on the first day of ITB, the airline announced yet another new slew of new routes, including:
- London Gatwick, United Kingdom;
- Cardiff, United Kingdom;
- Lisbon, Portugal;
- Tallinn, Estonia;
- Valletta, Malta;
- Cebu and Davao, Philippines;
- Langkawi, Malaysia;
- Da Nang, Vietnam;
- Bodrum, Antalya and Hatay, Turkey;
- Mykonos and Thessaloniki, Greece; and
- Málaga, Spain.
Qatar Airways also said it would increase frequency on a number of existing routes, including Madrid, Barcelona, Prague, Warsaw, Hi Chi Minh City and Hanoi.
“We are committed to continuing our ambitious growth strategy,” commented Baker.
“During the blockade, Qatar Airways continued its expansion; it continued its march ahead. We kept our country supplied and we became prouder as a nation,” he continued, going on to say:
“We are very defiant, and Qatar Airways will keep on expanding and keep on raising the flag for my country all over the globe.”