Qatar Airways is in a combative mood these days.
That could be explained by the fact that it is rapidly expanding its fleet. It is adding new destinations. Its finances seem healthy, and the airline is getting awards for its in-flight service.
Adding destinations can be perceived by competitors as a move to capture their traffic. Some competitors have been crying fould. Now Qatar Airways is saying to the, “Stop crying wolf!”
That’s a less polite way of asking them to face up to the challenges of competition.
“Them,” in this case, are European carriers.
“There is a level playing field,” Akbar Al Baker, Chief Executive Officer of Qatar Airways, told Arabian Business TV. “We operate as a business the same way they operate as a business. I know they [European airlines] are always crying wolf that Gulf carriers are subsidized by the state, that they are supported by the state. Subsidized no, but supported yes.”
He added: “Airlines like Lufthansa, Air France, Iberia were all, once upon a time, government owned and it is only in the recent past that they have been privatized in the same way we are also going to privatized…..We are going to go for an Initial Public Offering (IPO) so what is the problem?”
The airline said in December 2010 it was planning to launch an IPO in early 2012 after three consecutive years of profit.
Airline rivalries can turn sour and even involve governments if things turn ugly.
One example is that of Canada and the United Arab Emirates, which late last year saw Emirates Airlines being denied fresh landing spots and resulted in the UAE forcing the Canadians out of a military base and overturning the visa-free scheme.
Against this backdrop, Qatar Airways will be pressing for daily flights to four Canadian cities in a bid to muscle in on Air Canada’s long-haul market, Mr. Al Bakr told Arabian Business.
The airline is also proceeding with negotiations to place an order of 60 planes from the European firm Airbus, Arabian Business reported on Sunday, quoting Les Echos newspaper in France.
The lavish order was placed for 50 A320 NEO aircrafts, the re-engined version of the medium-range A320, and for 10 to 20 A380 superjumbo jets.
The airline will also place an additional 50 options to buy A320 NEO aircraft and options to buy an additional 10-20 A380 planes, the report added.
The airlines—which is half-owned by the Gulf state’s sovereign wealth firm Qatar Investment Authority—is also expected to sign a deal for a 33 percent stake in the European all-cargo airline, Cargolux, in a few weeks, Reuters reported its chief executive saying on Monday.
Cargolux, which is considered to be Europe’s largest all-cargo airline, has previously said it was in talks to sell stakes to a strategic investor.
Abu Dhabi-based rival Etihad Airways tried to buy a 33.7 percent stake in Cargolux in 2005 for reportedly $130 million.
(Dina Al Shibeeb of Al Arabiya can be reached at email@example.com)