Iata needs to do more for aviation freedom, says Qatar Airways chief

Qatar Airways’ chief executive Akbar Al Bakar contested the stance taken by International Air Travel Association (Iata) towards the issue of protectionism and called the airlines’ association to do more for the “freedom of the aviation industry”.

Speaking at the annual general meeting for Iata that is taking place in Miami, Mr Al Baker, said: “I like to reiterate once again in front of all the members our concern on the issue of protectionism coming from certain countries in the US and Europe.”

His protesting remarks followed a speech by Tony Tyler, the director general and CEO of Iata.

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“In your speech Mr Secretary General [Mr Tyler] you did not touch this important issue. What you mentioned is that Iata doesn’t have a mandate to comment on these issues. It’s important that Iata reiterate the agenda approved by AGM in 2008 for freedom of the aviation industry,”

“I don’t agree that we should not comment, because Iata was mandated by its members. It is important that Iata would re-access something that was agreed by members of this community in 2008,” Al Baker added.

Gulf Airlines – Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways – are locked in strife with their American counterparts and some European airlines over the issue of free competition. The American carriers, along with Lufthansa and France-KLM, are calling their governments to re-access the bi-lateral air agreements with the UAE and Qatar, as they claim that these countries provide subsidies to their national airlines distorting competition in the markets which they operate in.

Gulf airlines refuted such claims and called any limitations imposed on them to be a suppression to consumers’ movement and the industry.

Mr Tyler was asked to comment on Mr Al Akbar’s remarks at a press conference afterwards, when he said: “Iata and its members are fully in favour of growing liberalisation, free and fair competition that’s the policy of all our members and Iata.”

Meanwhile, Douglas Parker, chairman and CEO of American Airlines, explained that his airline code-share agreements with Gulf carriers such as Etihad is a “working agreement” to allow their customers to fly to the Middle East and markets that they do not serve.

He added that this is to be distinguished from the public policy issue that his airline represents with the US government to “enforce the trade laws”.

Mr Parker added that American Airlines has no plans to fly to Abu Dhabi or Doha.

Separately, Mr Al Baker told The National on the sidelines of the Iata conference that his company is considering taking a stake in Italian carrier Meridiana.

“Meridiana has approached us and yes, we would look into any business proposition that would fit into the strategy of Qatar Airways,” he said, without giving further details.


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