A month ago I offered the simple political truth that When Your Airline CEO Adversary Commits Political Suicide, Just Stand Back and Let Him.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker, however, doesn’t know — or simply cannot — do this. Instead he feels the need to make incendiary claims that shine the spotlight back on himself.. to his detriment.
At a conference today he reiterated his take on the ongoing row with US airlines over subsidies received by the largest Middle East carriers.
“I think Mr Anderson (CEO of Delta, Richard Anderson) doesn’t know the difference between equity and subsidy. We never receive any subsidy,” Baker said.
“The state of Qatar is the owner of Qatar Airways and whatever funds are put into the airline is as equity, which is quite legitimate.
“The unfortunate thing is that because they are so inefficient they want to blame us — whilst we are very efficient — for their failures and drawbacks.
While seemingly purely definitional, and such matters are resolved in international law on the basis of definitions, it’s a totally unpersuasive case.
(Though worth noting that distinctions that appear purely form over substance in terms of equity versus debt are very important in Islamic economics given the prohibition on usury.)
US airlines have little ability to persuade voters that they deserve protection from competition and that the government ought to adopt policies which drive up costs to consumers. So if you’re Qatar, let them flounder. Making a case on the basis of definitions rather than transparency will only serve to paint yourself into a corner as the villain.
Here’s the pull quote from the talk, though:
“I am delighted that Richard Anderson of Delta is not here. First of all, we don’t fly crap airplanes that are 35 years old. The Qatar Airways average fleet (age) is only fours years and one month,” said Baker.
al-Baker says as well that their planes are the most environmentally sound in the industry — but pretty much tells anyone who cares to shut up.
“We have ultra-modern airplanes. We have invested, my country has invested, huge amounts to make sure we are the lowest CO2 contributor in the aviation industry.”
…”People who make lots of noise about CO2, people who make so much noise about greenhouse gases that are emitted from airplane engines, don’t realise that they are constantly travelling by airplane, so they should start walking or going on horseback if they really mean what they say.”
I’m not on the side of the US airlines in the current dispute but it’s sure hard to be on the side of this guy.