Qatar Airways CEO Makes His Most Colorful Comments Yet

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker spoke at a Centre for Aviation event and made some of his most provocative statements yet.

While the man is known to have a ‘truth problem’ he’s always colorful, such as claiming that Delta flies ‘crap airplanes’.

It’s hard to blame him for turning his invective towards Delta, after Delta’s former CEO blamed his airline for 9/11 as part of an over-the-top campaign to limit consumer choices and raise airline prices by keeping Qatar, Etihad, and Emirates out of US markets (the 9/11 comment was especially ironic since Delta itself partners with state-subsidized Saudia).

Qatar Airways First Class Check-in, Doha

While the campaign against the Gulf carriers went nowhere, Delta’s current CEO saw hope in Donald Trump’s protectionism and indeed the election of Trump gives Delta another bite at the apple.

That bet, though, forgets that Donald Trump and Akbar al-Baker are friends.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker with Donald and Melania Trump in 1997, via Doha News

Against that backdrop, Qatar’s al-Baker says that:

  • Critics of the Gulf carriers (like Delta, American, and United) “are just sitting and smelling glue”

  • American and Qatar — both oneworld members — don’t have a joint venture (and indeed American partners closely with Etihad) because “the American Airlines administration has been misled by Delta and I think in the long run they will realize that a partnership with Qatar Airways is a very robust business proposition for them.”

  • They’ll be making acquisitions soon but “we will always be with successful people; we are not going to collect crap.”

Qatar Airways Airbus A380 Business Class Bar

Smelling glue would actually explain a lot about SkyMiles

(HT: Point Me to the Plane)

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. @gary – I’m far from a Delta apologist but they must be doing something right since even the beloved AA is copying them. The anti-SkyMiles jabs are getting tiresome…and this is coming from someone stuck at a DL hub city who has desperately tried to get AA to work. I have one more AA credit to use up and then I’m done, poor customer service, degrading elite value, and old planes on my routes are pushing me back to DL. The only good thing AA gives me is a reason to use the shorter security lines at the terminal. But PreCheck isn’t that bad at the DL terminal.

  2. Delta flies old crappy planes. The airline is more concerned with returning cash to their investors instead of investing in new airplanes and the future. It’s called penny wise and pound foolish. They also are the ones responsible for trashing the frequent flyer programs. Why would I incentivize them for screwing over consumers?

  3. I would agree if the US flag carriers gave the consumer a decent product for their money, but they fly old crappy planes, most in dire need of rehab, FA’s with so so service with an attitude, food is whatever one wants to call it. And all they do is insult and whine, then “hose” the US consumer.

    “Tricky Dick” at DL is gone but Douggie at AA has taken up where Anderson left off. It’s a losing fight and they know it.

    What the GC three are offering are clean planes, friendly FA’s, great food, state of the art inflight entertainment systems and a solid price point. They are not run by equity capitol, wall street but real life businessmen.

    I stopped flying US metal internationally years ago and have not looked back. In fact I just changed from AA to EK on one leg and Icelandic on the other. I am a combat disabled veteran, so I love my flag as much as anyone else, maybe more so having been in combat

    And yes i do pay for trips as well as reward flights.

  4. @Robert

    Delta’s SkyMiles program really does suck, no matter how much you are tired of hearing about it. By continuing to pound that drum, Gary is limiting Delta’s ability to claim “things must be ok because people aren’t complaining about it anymore.” They deserve each and every jab that Gary throws at them, and more — sometimes, the truth really does hurt.

    Delta the airline? They run a great operation, no doubt about that. But these blogs are not about finding which airline is going to get you there on time with the fewest cancellations in the newest planes with the biggest seat pitch and the shortest security lines… they’re about miles and points.

  5. We just flew on Qatar from Doha to Philadelphia on the A350.
    Nice new plane but the service on Qatar was nothing to write home about.
    I found the experience to be below average and would not fly them

  6. Donald Trump is almost completely unpredictable, but we’ll see if he actually “walks the walk” on his campaign promises to negotiate better trade deals and take care of American workers. I have no idea what’s more important to him: his rich friends or the Americans who voted for him based on his promises. It’s a no-brainer to demand changes in the current “open skies” agreement with the massively subsidized Middle Eastern airlines if you’re going to put “America first.” Eliminating their fifth freedom right to fly passengers between the USA and Europe is a Captain Obvious move. I’d also demand they submit to a real forensic accounting audit or lose their right to connect passengers beyond their Middle East hubs. I know Gary will have a cow if that happens, but it’s clearly in America’s interest to require foreign airline competitors to compete without billions in annual subsidies..

  7. @iahphx and lose the Fedex Dubai hub. And the feed that’s supporting American jobs at Alaska and JetBlue. What you call Captain Obvious is downright silly considering US airlines aren’t in any way threatened — they’re earning 49% of the world’s airline profits — and US jobs aren’t threatened, US airline jobs are at an all-time high. Dumb dumb dumb.

  8. I think @iahphx had lunch with Dick Anderson.

    Two things opened the door for the Mideast Airlines,

    First and foremost “Rules and Regulations” internationally agreed by all the airlines allow for their business model and their doing a greta job of it. This isn’t a playground where if you get mad you just take your toys and go home to mommy. World does not work like that.

    Second the crap that US Carriers are offering as their best international product. Fly on DL/UA/AA internationally, then fly one of the Mideast carriers. Will be the last time you fly US metal. I am on EK in two weeks and looking forward to my 6th flight in four years and another next year!

    As for “forensic” accounting lets not forget the US Bankruptcy Laws that the US and no one else has. If that isn’t a damn subsidy than nothing is. So before one runs off on a Dick Anderson theory do some research.

    And they do buy a lot of US metal to boot.

    Have you ever been to the Mideast, it’s a great place to visit.

  9. @ghostrider — Your comments about how the Middle East airlines are so great to fly — which I see a lot on frequent flyer message boards — always make me laugh. Of course they’re better to fly! A business that doesn’t actually have to pay the true cost of providing its services will always be able to provide you with better service. There’s no Dom Perignon on USA airlines for a reason: almost “nobody” will pay their own money for it.

    I have absolutely no problem in “taking advantage” of this largesse. I do it, and I encourage others as well. If somebody wants to give you free money, you generally take it. But, on societal terms, that doesn’t make it right. You have to separate your own personal benefit from societal interests.

    Donald Trump won this election because a good percentage of Americans believe our government doesn’t do a good job of putting America first. Renegotiating the unfair and lopsided aviation treaty with these Middle East nations who spend tens of billions of dollars to subsidize their airlines is a no-brainer to advance this goal. Whether Trump actually does it, we’ll have to see.

Comments are closed.