Qatar Airways is content to keep to 15% its stake in the International Airlines Group (IAG), the parent company of British Airways and Iberia.
Qatar’s chief executive, Akbar Al Baker, says he is happy with 15% and won’t seek a seat on the London-based company’s board, Bloomberg news agency has reported.
Qatar Air, 100% state owned, bought 9.99% of IAG in January last year and has steadily built up its stake.
At the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai last month, Al Baker described IAG as “the most successful airline today”. He stressed that Qatar was interested only in buying into “successful” carriers. That criterion ruled out any investment in Virgin Australia, he told the Australian newspaper later, saying it was “good” for Air New Zealand to sell its stake in the Australian airline but emphasising that Qatar had no interest in buying in.
Obviously, private Chinese airline operator HNA Group had no such reservations about Virgin Australia. It is acquiring up to 19.9% of the Australian airline.
Qatar’s rival Etihad is already a major shareholder in Virgin Australia, with 25.1% of the shares.
Qatar Airway’s recent launch of a new service between Doha and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was marred when the US airport failed to allocate a gate, forcing passengers, some of them old and frail, to disembark using mobile stairs and shuttle buses.
Nevertheless, Al Baker says Qatar Airways will open a new route from Doha to Las Vegas next year.
Written by Peter Needham