In an interview with The Times of London (paywall) Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker calls British Airways a ‘two out of ten low cost carrier.’
This isn’t mere trash talking by a rival, Al Baker’s Qatar Airways owns a 25% stake in British Airways parent company IAG and is the carrier’s largest owner – so it’s an admission against interests.
Qatar’s CEO says that British Airways now only has the marketing slogan “to fly, to serve” and mocks the carrier hawking sale of food inflight during non-pandemic times, “We wanted an airline that doesn’t sell food but serves food.” He says he never expected British Airways to become “a low-cost carrier.”
British Airways is the flag carrier of the UK. You remember the motto? ‘To fly, to serve’. That was not any more the motto of the company. It was only on a billboard.
I’ve argued that even British Airways first class lags Qatar’s business class and pointed out BA offering less legroom than Ryanair within Europe. It’s been a long way down for BA.
British Airways European Business Class
The Doha-based airline boss didn’t only unload on British Airways. He also
accuses Dubai of becoming a Covid-19 superspreader and lambasts arch-rival Emirates as a gas-guzzling dinosaur; says any airline that offers premium economy is ripping off its customers; and demands $5 billion (£3.6 billion) in compensation from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt for their “illegal” economic blockade of his country, which ended in January.
While reduced tensions in the Gulf region is perhaps the biggest U.S. foreign policy achievement in recent years there’s still animosity between Qatar and the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt. And their blockade of the Qatar was ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice. The wounds of these past few years will not subside easily.
He’s certainly wrong, though, calling premium economy a ripoff – to the extent it’s priced as a modest increment over economy to travel long haul, it can be a great value. Al Baker has called his own airline’s coach product comparable to others’ premium economy.
If that were true he’d have an argument that others are charging a premium for what Qatar already offers in its lowest economy fare. Except it is not true. For instance they offer Boeing 777’s with 10 abreast seating, comparable to Emirates, but less comfortable than Delta’s recently-retired 777s which only squeezed 9-across. And airlines in which Qatar owns stakes, including British Airways and Cathay Pacific, offer premium economy. So does Qatar’s partner American Airlines.
Of course Al Baker is known for incendiary comments like that Delta flies ‘crap’ airplanes and that on “crap American carriers you’ll always be served by grandmothers.”. He’s also known for spinning tales with only modest relation to reality.
(HT: Paddle Your Own Kanoo)