Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker is Aviation’s Greatest Troll

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.

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. So what’s the end game?

    Will there be a “winning ” global alliance here or possible formation of a new one?

    I am also curious to see where Alaska Airlines ends up thinking that they had reached the far end of not belonging to an alliance, current arrangements just are not getting it anymore.

    Happy New Year Gary!

  2. It guess its nice when you have free oil money to fund your airline and slave labor to build your airport.

  3. What’s really amazing is that you have consistently called out AA for its far too numerous faux pas over matters you would think AA management would have concisely understood, and with an experienced hands-on approach, avoided the calamity.

    Wonder if any member of AA;s Board of Directors reads your site here; if so, when do they make an entreat to you to be their soothsayer? I feel sorry for AA’s stockholders so blind-sided by AA’s PR machine that covers-up their management errors.

  4. I am certain that Doug Parker does not lose sleep worrying about how al-Baker spends his nation’s petrodollars on other airlines. Mind you, if he could buy a controlling interest in AA’s partners, Parker would be more concerned.

    FWIW, Parker plays a long game with almost all aspects of the business (remember, unlike most airline CEOs, he’s been in charge for almost 20 years now). He knows what Qatar’s future is. It’s not on top of the industry. Money losing airlines, even those owned and subsidized by wealthy autocratic nations, don’t prevail. That’s not a particularly insightful observation; it’s common sense.

  5. The guy may be a troll, but that doesn’t make him stupid. All he’s doing is taking a page from Delta’s playbook. That’s probably why Bastian is so unhappy, and wrote that idiotic article. Delta never likes when circumstances don’t benefit them.

  6. “China Southern is part-pwned by American Airlines…” That right there was the most amusing and thought-provoking content I’ve ever seen on the site.

Comments are closed.