Modern discourse is a world turned upside down. Democrats implore us to ‘trust the FBI’ about what needs to remain redacted in reports on their Russia investigation. They complain about pulling back from foreign wars (Syria). Republicans used to care about the deficit and government spending, now the request for The Wall is ‘only’ $5 billion and policy goals focus more on “owning the libs” than advancing any semblance of a conservative agenda.
Truly Akbar al-Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, is a man for our times.
- When Qatar was about to announce – in a mere 8 days – they’d be joining oneworld he put out a statement saying they weren’t joining oneworld (“No, we will not. It’s all rumors.”)
- The man tells reporters he won’t purchase aircraft and then buys them only to reject them from the manufacturer over quality issues he won’t specify.
- When Air France was complaining about his airline’s service to the country he went and got himself awarded the French Legion of Honor for his service and commitment to France at large.
- He trolls US airline executives claiming that ‘Delta flies crap airplanes’ and that the major US airlines’ executives ‘are sitting around smelling glue’. He claimed that ‘on “crap American carriers” you’ll “always be served by grandmothers.”. He announced that Qatar Airways’ Atlanta – Doha route was launched for spite.
- After being rebuffed by American Airlines when he wanted to buy a stake in the US carrier, he went and invested in JetSuite which then announced a plan to move its base of operations to Dallas Fort-Worth and grow its operation to up to 100 regional jets.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker with Donald and Melania Trump in 2007, via Doha News
Now he’s gone and outdone himself. After American Airlines ratcheted up the rhetoric against Qatar Airways over their investment in Air Italy and Air Italy’s flights to the U.S. (as always playing the Greater Fool for Delta which stands to gain through its revenue-sharing with Alitalia), he threatened to leave oneworld. Now he’s done something far more drastic.
Qatar Airways currently owns significant stakes in:
- 20% of IAG, the parent company of British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, and Vueling (American Airlines has a revenue-sharing joint venture with BA, Iberia, and potentially soon Aer Lingus)
- 10% of LATAM (American Airlines has a pending joint venture with LATAM)
- 9.99% of Cathay Pacific (whose oneworld connectivity is crucial for American’s Hong Kong flights0
- 49% of Air Italy
Now they’re taking a 5% stake in China Southern, the largest domestic airline in China. That’s significant for two reasons.
- China Southern has left SkyTeam. There’s strong speculation they’ll join the oneworld alliance, though it’s unclear how the move would play with nearby Cathay Pacific — which is owned in part by Air China (Star Alliance). Cathay is also owned in part by Qatar, which invests in four oneworld carriers besides itself.
- China Southern is part-pwned by American Airlines, and American is just starting to build a closer relationship with the carrier. Qatar’s stake in China Southern is larger than American’s, and it was announced that Qatar may grow its stake further in the next 12 months (but never believe any statements they make).
The great thing about Akbar al-Baker, and his access to the Al Thani pocketbook, is that when he wants to ‘own the libs’ (Parker) he can do it with a half billion dollar investment.