Breaking Travel News Interview: Akbar Al Baker, president, IATA AGM 2014

Breaking Travel News Interview: Akbar Al Baker, president, IATA AGM 2014

Elected unanimously as president for this year’s Annual General Meeting of the International Air Transport Association, Akbar Al Baker is, perhaps, better know in his role as the chief executive office of Qatar Airways. 

At the final press conference of this year’s event Phil Blizzard spoke with this veteran of the aviation industry and asked him what it meant to Qatar and indeed Qatar Airways to host this event.

Akbar Al Baker: Up to now, most of the people and most of the chief executives only saw what Qatar Airways is in the media, on TV and on my interviews.

But nobody sampled what Qatar Airways, and in particular, state of Qatar is.

And this was a perfect opportunity for us to showcase my country and the airline, and to let people know that we are a very serious player.

We are not a fly-by-night organisation.

For me, it is just a matter of my duties and this is exactly what I’m doing.

Breaking Travel News: As president for the IATA AGM, 2014, what you like IATA to achieve in the next 12 months?

AAB: You know that IATA has moved a great deal from the AGM at Singapore, where I exposed issues that were of concern to airlines.

But people were afraid to speak in order not to antagonise the director general at that time.

I’m a very straight shooter, I don’t care about individuals - I care for the organisations that I sit on.

You know that I have now shown concerns about SITA and I think that now is the time that airlines, after cleaning up IATA, now should concentrate.

In order that we make sure, that SITA, that is owned by airlines, are serving the airlines properly and that individuals who are not in the industry, should not occupy board membership and the same time, people should know that they are accountable and that they should not be doing management changes that is in personal interest of certain individuals and not in the interest of the organisation.

I have never seen an organisation in which the chairman, or the chairman of the council announce that the chief executive is going to leave 18 months from now, you know which in theory, you are having a chief executive, who is a lame duck for the next 18 months, so nobody is prepared to take his direction, he is not any more accountable because he is already having no cooperation from his people.

These are the small things, or, in my opinion, very big things that up to now, have been hidden from the industry.

It is time that we make people who are serving the industry, more accountable.

That it is not something for people just to sit in a position and get the perks that come with the position, but actually serve the industry, for which they are put in that place.

BTN:  What would you say to governments around the world?

AAB: The governments must know that aviation plays a very important part in their economies and that we should not be excessively taxed, we should not be prone to excessive regulations, which is detriment to the economic interest of the country and in particular, detriment to the interest of the travelling public.