Qatar Airways chief criticises Australia’s decision to block flights

Qatar Airways chief executive, Akbar Al Baker, criticised the Australian government’s decision to block extra flights by his airlines.

Al Baker stated that the Australian government’s decision to block extra flights by Qatar Airways was “very unfair” given the airline’s support for Australians during the pandemic.

The airline’s bid to fly an extra 21 services into Australia’s major airports was rejected.

Al Baker said he was “very surprised” when the request was blocked. His comments were made while welcoming the US government’s decisions to approve more Qatar flights in the country.

“We found it to be very unfair for our legitimate request to be not granted, especially at a time when we were so supportive of Australia,” Al Baker said.

Al Baker’s criticism comes days before a Senate committee holds public hearings to investigate why Qatar’s request for extra flights was blocked, given the lack of competition in the aviation industry.

Qantas former chief executive, Alan Joyce, has claimed that allowing Qatar the extra capacity would “distort” the local aviation market.

Al Baker told CNN he was aware of the Senate inquiry and was “always hopeful” the Australian government would listen to the airline’s case and reassess its request.

“We can never influence a government decision but the fact remains is that we were very surprised for getting these rights blocked or unapproved,” Al Baker added.

State premiers have supported the flights as a boost to tourism and economic activity – some of the more generous estimates of this economic benefit put the value as high as $1bn from the extra flights.

Virgin Australia – a partner airline of Qatar Airways – supported the extra flights.

Former and current chiefs of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission have also agreed the extra flights would put downward pressure on international air fares.