Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Interview with Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker

Aviation Business (November 2011 Issue)
I have been re-visiting some of the articles I wrote for Aviation Business magazine during my time as senior group editor, before I started working for Etihad Airways. After kicking-off with a cover story on the former Oman Air CEO Peter Hill, I have selected Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker for the second part of this series. 
It took months of planning to secure this interview, which was the cover story for our November 2011 issue of Aviation Business magazine. This issue was special in many ways – it was bumper sized to coincide with the Dubai Airshow (with huge distribution at the show and the Qatar Airways chalet), and Al Baker actually agreed to work with me as ‘guest editor’ – something he’s never done with any publication before (and something the magazine has never done before either). 

Al Baker is always great for interviews – very outspoken, opinionated, and knowledgeable, which is the perfect formula for attention-grabbing quotes! We also had a nice photo shoot with him at Doha Airport for the cover, the results of which were pretty impressive. The article is below:

Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker Interviewed By Robeel Haq (Archive from November 2011)

Earlier this year, a staggering 18.8 million passengers from 100 different nationalities voted for their favourite airline, the results of which were announced at the prestigious Skytrax World Airline Awards. Speculation had been mounting for several months about the potential winner, with Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Asiana Airlines hot favourites to reclaim the title, having collected the award in 2008, 2009 and 2010, respectively. However, dangerously underestimated in the race, it was actually Qatar Airways that walked home with the accolade, much to the delight of CEO Akbar Al Baker, whose sole mission since heading the Doha-based carrier in November 1996 has been developing the ultimate travel experience for airline passengers on a global scale.
My interview with Al Baker
That objective seemed far-fetched at the time, with Qatar Airways offering an “inconsistent”, “erratic” and “poor” service, as described by Al Baker himself. In fact, the licensed private pilot admits that his peers from neighbouring Emirates Airline and Gulf Air would often sneer at his grand ambitions back then, but 15-years later, and the Skytrax rankings have somehow charted the airline’s victorious transformation into a global, premium heavyweight.

“Just have a look back at the 2003 Skytrax listings; Qatar Airways was not even placed in the top 20, we took the 24th position. However, we jumped to number seven in 2004 – the highest moving entrant of that year – then number six in 2006, number four in 2007 and last year, Qatar Airways took the third place,” the industry veteran explains. “Now, in 2011, we’ve reached the top. This reflects a long-term vision to be number one and remain number one, not only in terms of aircraft fleet and route network, but also service delivery, product offering, hospitality and attention to detail. Ever since I became chief executive, during the airline’s re-launch, that has been my goal, for Qatar Airways to reach the pinnacle of the airline industry.”

Now that Al Baker has achieved the number one ranking for Qatar Airways, how does he plan to surpass the achievement? “Well, being named the world’s best airline is one thing, but maintaining that title is another,” he states, before taking a pause. “The product must continuously be innovated; we cannot sit on our laurels and expect that Qatar Airways will remain number one. Just because we have reached the pinnacle, our focus cannot be lost. I will constantly be on-guard to ensure the product is always second-to-none.”

1 comment :

  1. very impressive reading of your interview with mr.Akbar Al Baker CEO of Qatar Airways .many thx mr.Haq. rgds

    ReplyDelete

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