On Sunday, Qatar Airways inaugurated the world’s longest flight, between Doha and Auckland. At over 9,000 miles, it beat out the previous longest flight in the world, between Dubai and Auckland.
Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker, is known for being incredibly outspoken. Arguably he’s the most outspoken guy in the airline industry, from claiming that Qatar Airways’ economy is as good as premium economy on other airlines, to threatening to “hang [Delta’s CEO] to the wall,” to suggesting that the carrier’s near miss in Miami was a common occurrence (and those were all during just one press conference!).
As usual, Al Baker took the inaugural flight, as he held a press conference and gala in Auckland. Well, it seems like he has had some interesting things to say while there, especially about Air New Zealand. Specifically, he’s unhappy that Air New Zealand doesn’t want to help Qatar Airways, and thinks the government should step in.
Per the NZ Herald, at a press conference Al Baker talked about how airlines fear Qatar Airways when they enter a new market. The proof?
“The proof of this is unfortunately your national carrier has cancelled the SPA (special pro-rate agreement) we have in their domestic network,” he told a media briefing in Auckland today.
“As we promote New Zealand to the outside world the national carrier would want to be part of this but unfortunately, being pressured from their bigger alliance partners have withdrawn the SPA which means we can’t really connect the people of New Zealand to the large international network that we so wanted.”
Essentially what this means is that Qatar Airways can’t get special rates for their passengers to travel on Air New Zealand domestically on a Qatar Airways ticket. The logic here is obvious:
- Qatar Airways wants access to these special rates so they can book passengers to cities in New Zealand other than Auckland; they’ll be able to sell more tickets to more destinations that way
- Air New Zealand doesn’t want to help their competitor in any way, given that they’re competing directly with Qatar Airways to Europe, and Qatar Airways is even undercutting them on price in both economy and business class
So while I can see why Qatar Airways wants to work with Air New Zealand, is anyone surprised that the feeling isn’t mutual?
But here’s the best part — Al Baker thinks that the New Zealand government should put pressure on Air New Zealand to work with their competitor:
“I don’t think the New Zealand government should stand and watch this – they should put pressure on their national carrier – they should not do anything that hurts the interests of New Zealand.”
Ironically enough, the logic being used by Al Baker against Air New Zealand is very similar to the logic used by the “big three” U.S. carriers against the “big three” Gulf carriers — “the government shouldn’t stand by and watch this, but should protect the interests of Americans.”
Oh, and Al Baker also isn’t happy because Air New Zealand’s CEO didn’t accept Qatar Airways’ gala invitation:
“Not only that, but we invited the CEO of Air New Zealand to our function and he declined.”
(Tip of the hat to @sosweho)