Qatar Airways will cooperate with and support Saudi Arabia’s newest airline as there is enough business around for everybody, the airline’s CEO said today, adding that he wished new airline Riyadh Air the best.
On the opening day of the annual Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai, Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker said his company was “excited for” Riyadh Air, which was formally announced last month. He added, however, that there is no “cut-and-paste” method of creating a successful airline.
Al Baker said when he became CEO of the Doha-based airline in 1997, his strategy was to grow it to 35 aircraft and 35 destinations, but the company was discounted at first because there were already two major airlines, Gulf Air and Emirates in the region. The company now has 260 aircraft flying to 177 destinations. “At Qatar Airways we always move the goal posts when we reach them.”
“There is a lot of business around for everybody, it will always be how you manage your organisation, what kind of leadership you have,” he told journalists.
“You can always go after people and take good people from airlines, recruit them, and expect you will mimic what was at that airline - that doesn’t happen. It only happens by leadership, determination, vision, and of course support.
“You can get support if you don’t have a vision. You may have a vision, but you don’t have a strategy of how to get to it, all this is very important in a business. You cannot cut and paste somebody else’s strategy into yours.”
He concluded: “One thing I can say, is that we are very excited for Riyadh Air, we wish them all the best, we will cooperate with them, we will support them, because we feel that relationships matter, and there is a lot of business to go around for everybody, and I really wish them all the best.”
Saudi Arabia is in the midst of economic diversification efforts under its Vision 2030, focusing on massive expansion of non-oil businesses, including tourism, aiming to make the industry 10% of GDP, and attract 100 million tourists to the country.
The kingdom announced a six-runway mega airport master plan for Riyadh last year, as well as formally announcing another national carrier, Riyadh Air, last month.
Qatar Airways expansion
Al Baker said that 95% of people laid off from Qatar Airways during the COVID-19 pandemic had now been re-recruited into the airline, with advanced planning under way for further recruitment of pilots and cabin crew.
The airline currently serves 177 destinations, which could expand to 190 depending on the delivery of Boeing 787 aircraft this year, he said, adding that the company was buying “a large number of aircraft” but declined to reveal the number.
At the press conference, Al Baker announced eight new destinations for the airline, and the resumption of 12 destinations, including Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE.