DOHA, Qatar – Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Akbar Al Baker outlined emerging challenges and opportunities affecting airlines operating in the Middle East during the “Air Transport in the 21st Century” conference at the Bahrain International Airshow on Friday, 22 January. The discussion centered on strategies that will make a difference to global competitive positioning, increased regional competition from low-cost carriers, and the impact of changing oil prices.
Ahead of the panel, H.E. Mr. Al Baker said: “Successful airlines must adapt, but must also have very deliberate goals and the focus to reach them. We have taken advantage of our strengths, which includes our geographic position in Doha, which has 80 percent of the world’s population within six flight hours, and we have combined that advantage with a superior product, which includes our route map, our fleet – which is one of the youngest fleet in the world – and our onboard products and services. We have a singular goal, which is to prioritise a premium product and service for our passengers.”
Joining H.E. Mr. Al Baker on the esteemed panel were Kuwait Airways CCO, Mr. Philip Saunders; Air Arabia’s CEO, Mr. Adel Ali; Flynas’ CEO Mr. Paul Byrne and Lufthansa German Airlines VP Sales & Services Middle East, Africa & Southeast Europe, Mr. Tamur Goudarzi-Pour.
Part of the discussion honed in on product proposition, in particular the importance of on-board entertainment and the need for high-end offerings to ensure customers are able to enjoy each and every journey. On this subject H.E. Mr. Al Baker stressed the importance of innovation, as just last year Qatar Airways launched Oryx One, an enhanced interface for its inflight entertainment system. It offers passengers a huge choice of 2000 movies and TV shows using state-of-the-art technology. Connectivity was also another topic touched on as the panel discussed the growing expectation of passengers to stay online whilst in the skies.
During the panel, H.E. Mr. Al Baker discussed the importance of competition in an industry that faces increasing challenges against a backdrop of global economic change. Mr. Al Baker said: “Qatar Airways is a young company but we are growing fast, in fact we have seen a growth of 25 per cent this past year. Key to our success is that as a business we run efficiently and for our passengers we deliver a product that caters to their travel requirements. In this region we have a growing demographic looking to travel further and more frequently. At the same time we run an efficient and 24-hour airport that makes travel seamless and convenient for our passengers. The truth is, competition in this industry will not go away and it is the customer that will determine the winners and the losers.”
The panel discussion was the first of its kind for civil aviation at the Bahrain Airshow, where Qatar Airways is enjoying a formidable presence by proudly showcasing three of its state-of-the-art aircraft – the A350, A380 and Qatar Executive’s Gulfstream G650ER. The airline celebrated one year of A350 operations as the global launch customer of the world’s newest passenger aircraft type while at the show.
The conference was a new addition to the Bahrain Airshow line-up and was developed to create a platform for high-level networking and opinion sharing within the airline industry. The ‘Air Transport in the 21st Century’ conference will be followed by a second event, an International Air Transport Association (IATA) seminar, on the third day of the show.