Qatar Airways’ enduring CEO, Akbar Al Baker, announces his resignation.

Qatar Airways' enduring CEO, Akbar Al Baker, announces his resignation.
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In an unexpected announcement made on Monday, Qatar Airways’ enduring CEO, Akbar Al Baker, announces his resignation from the airline, effective from November 5. Al Baker has held the position of CEO of Qatar Airways since its establishment in 1997 and has played a pivotal role in crafting a world-class and innovative airline. This resignation was officially confirmed by Qatar Airways in a press release.

Al Baker also held the role of CEO in various group companies, including Qatar Executive and Hamad International Airport. During his tenure, he presided over the airline’s remarkable growth, which started with a mere five aircraft in 1996 and has since expanded to a fleet of 258 aircraft.

In a message addressed to the airline’s employees, Al Baker conveyed, “After 27 years of service, I am writing to you to announce that I will step down from the Qatar Airways Group. In 1996, with a fleet of just five aircraft, unwavering dedication, and a loyal and passionate team, together we embarked on a remarkable journey to aviation excellence. From that very first day, our journey has been nothing short of extraordinary.”

Badr Mohammed al Meer, presently serving as the Chief Operating Officer of Hamad International Airport in Doha, is set to assume the role of the new Group CEO for the airline.

Qatar Airways Under His Leadership:

Qatar, with a population of around half a million people and an area spanning approximately 4,500 square miles, lacked a domestic market large enough to support a substantial airline. However, it possessed a strategic geographical location and was guided by visionary leadership aiming to reduce the country’s reliance on oil and natural gas.

Qatar Airways initiated its operations as a regional carrier in 1994 and was relaunched in 1997 under the directive of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who aspired to elevate the airline into a prominent international carrier.

Under Al Baker’s leadership, Qatar Airways boasts one of the world’s youngest and fastest-growing fleets. The airline made history by being the global launch customer for both variants of the Airbus A350 aircraft.

During Al Baker’s tenure, Qatar Airways introduced the groundbreaking QSuite, a business-class product equipped with privacy doors. Among its unique features, QSuites allowed passengers to sit in groups of up to four people facing each other in a private setting within a commercial aircraft. Al-Baker asserted that the product was so exceptional that it rendered first-class travel unnecessary, and it was marketed as “First in Business.”

Recognizing the demand for corporate jets, Qatar Airways has assembled a fleet of 19 executive jets and stands as the world’s largest owner-operator of the Gulfstream G650ER.

Akbar Al Baker was a driving force behind the launch of Hamad International Airport, which has served as the central hub for Qatar Airways since 2014. Prior to this, the airline operated from Doha International Airport.

In the first half of 2023, Hamad International Airport recorded a notable 33.5% surge in passenger traffic, welcoming over 20 million passengers to its facilities. Currently, the airport is in the process of expanding its capacity to accommodate up to 70 million passengers annually.

Al Baker was known for his candid and unfiltered communication. In 2018, following his election as the chairman of the International Air Transport Association, he faced a question about the lack of female leadership within his airline. His initial response, “Of course it has to be led by a man because it is a very challenging position,” drew controversy. However, he subsequently issued an apology and emphasized that Qatar Airways was committed to gender equality.

During his leadership, Qatar Airways engaged in a legal dispute with Airbus in the High Court of London, seeking billions of dollars in compensation over paint issues on the A350 aircraft that exposed copper mesh, which the airline claimed posed safety concerns. This dispute led to Qatar Airways grounding its A350 fleet. The case was ultimately settled without going to trial, but not before Airbus canceled some outstanding orders for the airline.

 


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