The Qatar Airways CEO’s Truth Problem

Earlier today Lucky wrote that despite Qatar announcing A380 service would commence first in June 2014 but then pushing it back weeks at a time, it has now refused delivery of the aircraft.

Qatar’s CEO His Excellency Akbar Al Baker won’t say what’s wrong with the planes or why the order was rejected.

This isn’t the first time he’s been cagey with suppliers and partners.

Back in November at the Dubai Airshow, Qatar Airways, in a joint conference with Emirates, announced orders for fifty 777X aircraft of their own. CEO Al Baker noted that despite telling reporters Qatar would not purchase the airplane, he decided to order them anyway. However, CEO Al Baker, told Reuters that the airline is not ready to finalize an order for 50 Boeing 777X aircraft.

Of course, Al Baker emphatically denied Qatar was joining the oneworld alliance and then a mere 8 days later came out with an announcement that Qatar would join oneworld.

This isn’t the first time that Al Baker has played games with aircraft orders. From November 2011:

At this moment, in Dubai, Boeing is his best friend, while announcing Qatar Airways will buy two additional Boeing 777 freighters, Mr. Al Baker called it the “best freighter aircraft” in the world today. Just a month ago, CargoLux, in which Qatar has a sizeable ownership share, gave Boeing a whole lot of grief, refusing to take delivery of their 747-8F freighters at the very last moment.

…Qatar Airways walked away from a deal it was negotiating with Airbus for the A320neo (new engine option) and some additional A380s, leaving Airbus to call off the press conference at the very last minute. In addition to the above issues, it is understood that Al Baker wants Qatar Airways to be the launch customer of the A320neo. This, after Airbus has already booked over a 1,000 aircraft orders from customers across the world.

In rejecting A380 orders, Al Baker says Qatar and the aircraft manufacturer “are at an impasse.”

It’s not the first time he’s used precisely that term. With Airbus.

As far as Airbus is concerned, we have reached an impasse. We thought we would conclude our agreement and make a very large announcement today. Unfortunately I feel that Airbus is still learning how to make airplanes,” Al Baker said. If the impasse can’t be resolved “we will say bye-bye” to the deal, he warns Airbus.

He’s had choice words for Boeing in the past, too.

Here’s the thing. How can this guy make a credible commitment to anyone? There’s big dollars at stake, so partners and suppliers keep coming back for more. They’re willing to do business with someone whose pronouncements are so frequently just false. Surely he does not even believe what he says (because if he does, and changes his mind with such extremes so quickly, he’s likely diagnose-able).

Qatar isn’t even honest when refusing to honor mistake fares. And in their days prior to joining oneworld had been known to oversell premium cabins and downgrade passengers on award tickets issued by partner airlines. They’ve had some controversy over how they treat employees, too.

And yet with American AAdvantage award routing rules loosened to allow more travel through Doha on Qatar, they’re a very useful partner to have. For passengers, it seems, as well as for aircraft manufacturers. Who keep coming back for more, despite total recognition that the only time this airline CEO lies is when his lips are moving.

What sort of theory does this represent, and what kind of consequences if any exist for Qatar from this sort of behavior? For instance, do manufacturers charge Qatar more than they otherwise would — a risk premium? I’d sure love to know.

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. Running out of oil and gas will surely provide us with more important problems to solve than to worry about QR…

  2. Dear Qatar Airways Representative,

    This is Gunasegar Krishnamurthy, who fled from Qatar to Vietnam on 13th June 2014 morning through QR966. I had been seated nearby window to Left side Wing and accidentally noticed one of the Screw were missed which is in between wing flaps and Slats. I had report this problem to crew member and they have also visually noticed the same through window and informed me that it will be taken care as soon as possible to replace with the new Screw. i had taken relevant photos for reference. if there is any option i can send photo to your concern department for investigation. I hope this problem has been sorted out by this time and please to request the concerns department Engineers to make sure the periodic competent visual inspections been carried out on over all Aircraft parts and do rectification on priority basis.

    Thank you,


    Third party Inspection Engineer-Mechanical
    Velosi certification L.L.C

  3. Ah…. QR. I still remember back to 2008 when Ian Heywood, Vice-President of Global Sales and Distribution at QR at the time, resigned to take up a position as Commercial Director at bmi. Swiftly trumped up charges of espionage got him a month in jail and a further six months unable to leave Qatar before being cleared.

  4. I think the moral of all of this is that nobody should do any business with ANY Qatari business. That country has horrible track records in almost every imaginable category when dealing with foreigners. Passengers should avoid their airline. Boeing and Airbus should just stop talking to them about new sales. And poor people from Nepal, India, and Bangledesh sure as heck shouldn’t go there to work in construction.

  5. Having lived in their part of the world, this is just normal for Arab, Muslim culture. It is “shirk..or sin” to lie to a fellow Muslim, but to deceive the outsider is a point of pride for one’s shrewdness. I’m not standing in judgement…but anyone dealing with an Arab business just needs to understand this and find a way to make it unprofitable for them to lie to you, otherwise, good luck.

  6. @Andy & @Gary: Comment 5 is mine and its all 100% true.
    all i just worried that whether that problem was solved or not. because, every my vacation i used to be traveled Via Qatar Airways.i sent about this scenario as my feedback to Qatar Airways but there is no response. its 300 passengers life that one day will be in trouble if there is no rectifications done by Qatar Airways maintenance team and now we just need only to believe god to every our trip to be safe.

  7. Seems QR just have a culture of not being truthful, several times departing Singapore in Business class I’ve been told that due to Singapore customs they cannot serve champagne on the ground!!!! Does QR really expect us to believe that when every other airline is serving champagne on the ground in singapore.? On a miss connection in Doha where I had an 8 hour wait they offered me a down town hotel because the airport hotel was fully booked. When I checked with the airport hotel they had rooms the truth was QR could get it cheaper down town and they don’t care if their premium customers have to waste time in taxis and buses. Looks like the example is set by the CEO and its followed rigorously throughout the organization.

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