Qatar Airways chief Akbar Al Baker warns GCC blockade could leave ‘lasting wounds’
As the blockade of Qatar by neighbouring Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE entered its third week, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker has said it would leave lasting wounds.
He said he expected a rapid US diplomatic intervention to resolve the standoff, reported The Peninsula.
“People will not forget. People will have long, long memories and especially the way it’s been done, where families are split, where children have been removed from school, when loved ones have been taken away from their husbands and their wives. I think this generation, this entire generation, will never forget what happened,” he was quoted as saying on the sidelines of the Paris Air Show. "
In a sign that the dispute is far from over, UAE's state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said Qatar's isolation could ‘last years,’ reported Qatar Tribune.
Baker said the airline was finding new areas of passenger growth.
“There has been monetary impact. We’ve had a lot of cancellations, especially to the four countries that did this illegal blockade, but we’ve found new markets and this is our growth strategy,” he said.
Al Baker said the boycott would not affect their plans for future growth and said they would soon order new aircrafts to add to their young fleet.
“We aren’t going to defer any of our aircraft. We’re continuing our aircraft deliveries at the same pace as we’re contractually obligated to do,” he said, adding Qatar was in talks to add more freighter capacity.
Meanwhile, Al Baker lashed out at the global air safety regulator for failing to take stronger action against Qatar’s neighbours when they imposed the blockade on them, reported Financial Times.
“What has been done in the last 15 days? Nothing, considering there’s violation of their own rules. I don’t want anybody to side with us. I want ICAO as a neutral body to take the decision they [should]. It’s a gross violation of their own rules,” he said.
He admitted the blockade had hit them financially.
“I cannot give the cost as the embargo hasn’t ended. There’s a cost but I prefer not to talk about it,” he said.
Despite the ongoing blockade, Qatar Airways international flights have continued to operate smoothly. The Airline, which recently announced a multi-million Dollar tie-up with football world body FIFA, is also going ahead with plans of starting a domestic airline in India with around 100 planes.