Once Akbar Al Baker leaves, tongues loosen. We learned that his resignation had been in the air for several months. The chairman of the supervisory board of Qatar Airways, Saad Sherida al-Kaabi, also minister of energy and boss of the powerful oil company Qatar Energy, had for some time requested that the CEO of the airline put in place governance modern business. It was about better distributing responsibilities. However, Al Baker wanted to maintain total and uncompromising control. His resignation became inevitable.
Al Baker was not a man of compromise or balance
Internally, the 62-year-old was an unwavering autocrat. Externally, he also liked to denounce his business partners. Airbus staff could tell dozens of not-so-pleasant anecdotes on this subject. He once refused to take delivery of his first long-haul Airbus plane, the A350, because he didn’t like the color of a carpet in a small area. A gala evening already fully prepared for hundreds of guests in Toulouse had to be canceled.
But everyone had to endure public arguments with him at some point
“Boeing clearly failed,” Al Baker said in 2010 due to delays on long-haul 787 jets. A good decade later, he fell out with Airbus over defects on the fuselage surface of several of the A350s. He refused to take delivery of the planes. He went to court and demanded more than $1 billion in compensation. Airbus then canceled all current orders. The stories got crazier and crazier, and for those who weren’t involved, they were extremely entertaining.
Akbar Al Baker started from nothing to build Qatar Airways into a global airline
In 1997, the man took the helm of a mini-airline with a few aircraft which played no role at the international level. It was given the mandate to build a mega hub similar to that of Emirates. Despite criticism of unfair competition from Western airlines, he succeeded in being one of the main shareholders (25%) of IAG (British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and Iberia Express, LEVEL and Vueling). Money didn’t seem to play a role, growth seemed to matter even more, and so the airline was winning award after award for its good in-flight product.
The Emir of Qatar intervened
Even in Qatar, Al Baker’s scandals were not appreciated, despite his undeniable service to the airline. Ultimately, the Emir of Qatar would have made a clear political announcement in favor of change within Qatar Airways. The emirate should find another base for him.
The Al Baker era is over after 27 years
Qatar Airways announced in a brief statement that Badr Mohammed al-Meer will be the new CEO from November 5.
Al Baker’s successor was previously the operational director of Doha Airport, an insider that almost no one knows in the sector outside of Qatar.