Qatar Airways' boss Akbar Al Baker to step down after more than 25 years

Chief executive will be succeeded by Badr Al-Meer, chief operating officer of Hamad International Airport

Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways' group chief executive, is stepping down next month after more than a quarter of a century in the position. Reuters
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Qatar Airways' long-standing chief executive Akbar Al Baker is to step down on November 5, after more than 25 years at the helm of the government-owned airline.

The veteran will be succeeded by Badr Al-Meer, chief operating officer of Hamad International Airport in Qatar, the airline said on Monday.

"Mr Akbar Al Baker has decided to step down as group chief executive," the Doha-based airline said. No reason was given for his departure.

The move comes after Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim issued a decision to replace Mr Al Baker as chairman of Qatar Tourism, state-run Qatar News Agency reported on Sunday.

He is succeeded by Saad bin Ali bin Saad Al Kharji as the country's tourism chief.

Mr Al Baker has led the airline for more than a quarter of a century since joining in 1997.

“It comes as a considerable surprise to hear of Akbar Al Baker stepping down now. There is no doubt that without his drive and energy Qatar Airways would not have reached the respected global position it enjoys today,” John Strickland, an aviation consultant with JLS Consulting, told The National.

“The challenge for his successor will be to keep that momentum going in a rapidly changing and challenging aviation world.”

During his tenure, Mr Al Baker transformed the airline into a long-haul giant carrying passengers on intercontinental routes between the East and West through its Doha hub and competing with global aviation powerhouses such as Emirates airline and Turkish Airways.

Qatar Airways flies to more than 160 destinations worldwide.

Mr Al Baker often made global headlines with comments about Airbus and Boeing, criticising the plane makers for their craftsmanship, decision-making and strategy.

He steered the airline through a legal row with Airbus over damage to the painted surface and anti-lightning system on the A350 aircraft. The two companies settled in January, side-stepping a UK court trial.

The notoriously outspoken executive also caused controversy in 2018 when he told reporters only a man could handle his job "because it is a very challenging position". He later apologised for his remarks.

Qatar Airways in July reported a 45 per cent increase in revenue for its last fiscal year, despite a drop in net profit, after passenger numbers received a boost from the Fifa World Cup hosted by the Gulf state last year.

Revenue rose to 76.3 billion Qatari rials ($21 billion) in the 2022-2023 fiscal year, with passenger revenue rising by 100 per cent annually.

Qatar Airways carried 31.7 million passengers, an increase of 71 per cent over the previous year.

Capacity increased by 31 per cent, driven by 9 per cent higher yields and a load factor of 80 per cent – both the highest in the airline’s history, it said.

However, the airline's net profit fell by more than 21 per cent to 4.4 billion rials during the period, compared with 5.6 billion rials in the previous year.

Updated: October 24, 2023, 5:11 PM