Qatar Airways will report another annual loss as it mulls Oneworld exit, chief executive says

Airline is likely to exit the global airline alliance in a month or two

FILE PHOTO Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker gestures as he tours the exhibition stand of the company at the International Tourism Trade Fair (ITB) in Berlin, Germany, March 9, 2016.   REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo
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Qatar Airways’ boss Akbar Al Baker said the company will report another financial loss this year as the Doha-based carrier mulls abandoning the Oneworld global alliance.

The airline is likely to exit Oneworld in a month or two and if it decides to leave, the departure will create a “big hole” within the alliance’s network connectivity as the carrier is a big contributor, Mr Al Baker said in a press conference at the ITB fair in Berlin on Wednesday. The executive complained of bullying behaviour by some individuals within the group but did not identify them.

“We have given them breathing space to get their act together,” he said. “When you invite somebody to your house, then you tell me you can't drink from the water, I can drink from the tap instead. Qatar Airways is not a Mickey Mouse airlines.”

The executive is known for making fiery statements and lambasting fellow airlines and major plane-makers when negotiating ahead of making decisions on deals.

Mr Al Baker revisited his repeated threats to exit the Oneworld alliance following tensions as fellow member Qantas Airways resisted Qatar Airways’ expansion into Australia and a long-standing dispute with rival American Airlines, which along with other US carriers, argues that the Doha-based airline receives illegal state subsidies that creates unfair competition.

Qatar Airways will report its second consecutive annual loss this year, citing rising fuel costs and unfavourable currency swings.

Qatar Airways recorded a 252.47 million Qatari riyals (Dh254m) loss at the end of March 2018 compared with a profit of 2.79 billion riyals the previous year, blaming the Arab boycott of its country that drove up operational costs. The airline’s financial year ends in March.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Egypt severed commercial and political ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing the state of supporting extremist groups. The quartet banned Qatar Airways flights in their airspace, forcing the Doha airline to cancel 18 routes and divert others, which increased fuel costs and flight times.

In the fiscal year ending March, which the airline called the "most challenging" in its 20-year history, Qatar Airways carried 29.2 million passengers to the end of March 2018, down from 32 million the previous year.