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Qatar Airways chief calls on Donald Trump for support

February 27, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker has told reporters the airline will post a loss for the year to the end of March – and has expressed hope that President Trump will press Qatar’s neighbours to end a blockade that’s affecting the carrier’s operations.

Last year, the UAE – the home of Emirates and Etihad – joined Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt in accusing tiny Qatar (pronounced cutter) of supporting causes that back terrorism, a charge Qatar vehemently denies. Some of the countries cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and closed off their airspace for all Qatari-registered aircraft.

Al Baker has voiced his outrage at the continuing blockade.

Speaking at Airbus headquarters in Toulouse last week during a visit to pick up the latest Airbus A350-1000 for which Qatar Airways is launch customer, Al Baker asked reporters what Qatar’s adversaries had achieved in implementing the blockade.

Fabrice Brégier of Airbus and Qatar Airways chief Akbar Al Baker hold a model of the new plane

“Zero,” he declared, answering his own question.

“They failed in intimidating my country, putting us against the wall, trying to take over our sovereignty, trying to dictate our foreign policy, trying to dictate who our friends should be. In every single aspect they failed. They made Qatar more independent, more resilient, more robust.”

The often outspoken Al Baker has gone a long way recently to make peace with the US over a simmering commercial dispute with US carriers.

Now, in a statement quoted by the Irish Independent and other outlets, Al Baker has said Qatar Airways will continue to work around the blockade in the hope that “President Trump will impose enough pressure on our neighbours that this unjust act of blockading countries would not be allowed to be sustained in the modern world.

“President Trump is the only individual who can impose the lifting of this blockade. The United States is our ally. We are a partner in fighting terrorism. It has its biggest military base outside of the United States in my country.”

Al Baker was referring to Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base, home to the Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC), which houses some 11,000 American troops and provides command and control of air power throughout Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and 17 other countries.

Earlier this month, Qatar Airways did a deal with the Trump Administration, signalling that it would commit to greater financial transparency and give up “fifth freedom” rights – the ability to run indirect flights to the US through other countries. This would, presumably, restrict it to end-to-end traffic between the US and Qatar.

The Dallas Morning News said US carriers were hailing the deal as a victory in a bitter dispute. For years, US carriers have accused their Gulf competitors of receiving unfair government subsidies, a charge the Gulf carriers have always denied.

American Airlines’ chief executive Doug Parker described Qatar Airways’ move as a “landmark action” that would help create a level playing field between US carriers and Qatar Airways. Other US airline chiefs were similarly enthusiastic.

Written by Peter Needham

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