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Qatar Airways Chief Executive Says Cash is Fast Running Out But Airline Will Continue Flying

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Says Cash is Fast Running Out But Airline Will Continue Flying

The chief executive of Qatar Airways says the airline is fast running out of cash but would nonetheless continue to fly where other airlines have already been forced to ground their planes. The comments by Akbar Al Baker follow urgent calls from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for governments in the Middle East to offer emergency financial support or face an economic “catastrophe”.

“We have enough cash to take us through a very short period of time,” Al Baker warned in a telephone interview with Reuters on Sunday. Qatar Airways is 100 per cent owned by the government of Qatar, a small gas-rich state in the Persian Gulf which has also been named the richest country in the world per capita.

Qatar's Akbar Al Baker provided insight into the airline's potential Indian expandion at an aviation conference in New Dehli. Photo Credit: Qatar Airways
Akbar Al Baker, the chief executive of Qatar Airways

Late last week, Al Baker said the aviation industry was facing the “survival of the fittest” as the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc around the world. “In this very difficult period, it will only be the survival of the fittest,” the often outspoken chief executive told Bloomberg televison.

Asked whether the current situation presented opportunities for investment, Al Baker cautioned that there was a chance there wouldn’t be many airlines left to take stakes in.

“There will be nothing left for consolidation because a lot of airlines will go belly up,” he warned. IATA estimates that emergency government bailouts totalling $200 billion will be required to stop otherwise healthy airlines going bankrupt.

Al Baker said Qatar Airways would indeed seek further support from the Qatari government to see it through this “unprecedented” crisis.

“People that were bragging about not taking state aid and being independent are now themselves all over the world asking for state aid,” Al Baker said, jibing at the big three U.S. airlines that will receive a share of a massive $50 billion CARES act bailout signed off by President Trump late last week,

Qatar Airways has seen revenue drop by around 80 per cent in recent weeks but continues to operate to around 75 destinations, self designating itself as the one international airline that can get stranded passengers back home.

In 2019, Qatar Airways made a loss of $639 million which it put down to losing out on mature routes because of a Saudi-led blockade, a sharp rise in fuel costs and fluctuating currencies. Critics claim Qatar Airways has been propped up by hundreds of millions of dollars in state aid over many years.

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