Qatar Airways chief slams Australia for blocking extra flights after 'pandemic support'

Qatar Airways chief slams Australia for blocking extra flights after 'pandemic support'
Akbar Al Baker called Australia's decision 'very unfair' as Qatar Airways supported Australia throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, carrying out multiple flights to repatriate Australians.
2 min read
19 September, 2023
Al Baker has hopes that the Australian government will listen to the airline's case amid an inquiry [Getty]

The CEO of Qatar Airways has criticised Australia’s decision to block its request to operate more flights from the country, branding it "very unfair" in a televised interview on Saturday,

Speaking to CNN over the weekend, Akbar Al Baker said he was "very surprised" at the decision given the helping hand the Qatari national carrier had lent stranded citizens seeking to leave or return to Australia as coronavirus spread globally.

At the time, flights from the Australian national carrier Qantas were grounded, while some of Qatar Airlines’ flights would arrive in the country with as few as 20 passengers.

Al Baker said: "[We were] repatriating their stranded citizens from around the world to and out of Australia, helping them receive medical supplies and spare parts etc. during the COVID-19 period."

"The national carrier and its partners completely stopped operating in Australia. We were there for the people of Australia," the CEO added.

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In July, Australia’s transport minister Catherine King blocked the airline's request to fly an extra 21 services into the country, citing national interests among other reasons, reported The Guardian. 

The Qatari airline currently operates 28 weekly flights to Australia.

King, who has held the ministerial position since last year, has come under scrutiny for the decision. Many have accused her of protecting Alan Joyce, the former chief executive of Qantas.

Joyce claimed that allowing more Qatari flights would "distort" the aviation market, but opposition leaders have said that such claims are groundless.

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The leader of the National Party of Australia, Bridget McKenzie, accused King of "protectionism".

McKenzie is also carrying out an enquiry into the matter, as King refused to provide documents to the government regarding the decision, according to Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera.

Australian deputy prime minister Richard Marles claimed he had not been "consulted" when King decided to block the Qatari request.

Al Baker said he was aware of the ongoing enquiry, and expressed hope that the Australian government would listen to the airline’s case.

"We can never influence a government decision but the fact remains is that we were very surprised for getting these rights blocked or unapproved," Al Baker said.