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Qatar Airways CEO Finally Breaks Silence Over Australian Snub That Has Caused a Diplomatic Storm

Qatar Airways CEO Finally Breaks Silence Over Australian Snub That Has Caused a Diplomatic Storm

a plane flying over water

The chief executive of Qatar Airways has finally spoken publicly about the controversial decision by the Australian government to deny the airline additional flying rights to Australia’s four largest international gateways.

Speaking to Richard Quest on CNN, the often out-spoken Akbar Al Baker chose his words carefully, saying he was unable to comment much on the situation because a parliamentary inquiry is currently underway.

Al Baker did, however, confirm what many had long suspected: The airline expected the additional flying rights to be quickly granted in recognition of the fact that Qatar Airways continued to serve Australia throughout the other pandemic when other airlines, including Qantas, abandoned the international market.

Qatar Airways is currently permitted to fly 28 weekly services between its hub in Doha and Australia’s four largest cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane. The airline applied for a massive increase in that quota will an additional 21 weekly flights, but the application was rejected by Transport Minister Catherine King.

Her decision is now subject to a parliamentary inquiry, and amidst the fallout, there are accusations that the government have been running a ‘protection racket’ for flag carrier Qantas.

“I’m always hopeful for the government to listen to our case very carefully and then make a decision. You know, we can never influence a government decision, but the fact remains is that we were very surprised for getting these rights blocked or unapproved, I can say,” Al Baker told Quest.

“There is a parliamentary inquiry, and it is very difficult for me to make any comments. We have full confidence in the government and in the parliament and in the senate of the Australian government, and we will have to wait and see what conclusion they get up to.”

At the height of the pandemic, Qatar Airways made a calculated decision to woo Australian lawmakers and the wider public. Rather than abandoning the country, the airline would continue to operate flights in compliance with strict quotas and at great cost.

Flying with Qatar Airways became one of the only ways to reach Australia for many Australians who had been stranded overseas, and Qatar Airways had not so secretly hoped that this show of solidarity would be awarded with the one thing it had been after for years – additional flying rights to the lucrative Australian market.

“We found it to be very unfair, our legitimate request to not be granted,” Al Baker told Richard Quest. “Especially at a time when we were so supportive of Australia, repatriating the stranded citizens from around the world, helping them receive medical supplies and spare parts, etc, etc during the COVID period when the national carrier and their partners completely stopped operating to Australia – we were there for Australia.”

It’s now looking increasingly likely that Qatar Airways could win, at least some, additional flying rights to Australia, although probably not because of the airline’s show of support during the pandemic but rather the Australian public’s newfound hatred for flag carrier Qantas.

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