Qatar Airway’s CEO has claimed Qantas management is putting shareholders ahead of customers by trying to block the airline from adding more flights to Australia.
Talking to Sky New Business Weekend, Akbar Al Baker said the Flying Kangaroo is “doubling the price of fares to the Australian people” while his airline took on losses to continue to fly during COVID.
The extraordinary broadside follows reports that Qantas has blocked One World partner Qatar from trying to double the number of services into Australia to 21 per week.
During the pandemic, Qatar briefly became the world’s largest global carrier and even increased capacity into Australia in March 2020 as Qantas and Virgin stopped commercial international flights.
It came alongside a major global campaign pledging to take people “home”, with one advertising video claiming, “Where others are stepping away, we remain by your side to get you to where you need to go.”
Post-pandemic, Qatar is reaping the rewards of its policy and seeing its aircraft virtually full.
“Why we are being stifled getting additional rights into Australia … the largest operator in Australia has cut its flight to 50 per cent of pre-Covid level, more than doubling the price of the fares to the Australian people, in the benefit of the shareholders,” Al Baker said.
“In addition, getting billions of dollars of state aid during the pandemic period in 2020 and 2021.
“And at the same time, even their large international partner has also cut their flights to only 50 per cent to pre-Covid level while we are offering an alternative to the Australian people who we always like to serve.
“We made sure, at huge losses, we continued serving the Australian people and the Australian trade during this difficult period.”
However, the row with Qantas significantly comes as five Australian women have formally begun their legal case against both the state of Qatar and its national carrier for their role in an incident that saw passengers at Doha airport subjected to non-consensual genital examinations.
In October 2020, 13 Australian women on board a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Sydney were asked to leave their aircraft before being escorted to ambulances for genital checks, supposedly carried out as staff tried to find the mother of a baby abandoned at the airport.
Many of them now claim to have been left traumatised and received no personal apology or compensation.
The case is being brought against both the airline and the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA), which is overseen by the state of Qatar itself.
Four of the five claimants were personally subjected to the invasive checks, while a fifth was ordered off the aircraft by armed staff despite being 73 at the time and legally blind.