Akbar Al Baker, one of the airline industry’s most celebrated and transformative Aviation Industry leaders, is retiring as chief executive of Qatar Airways after almost three decades at the helm of the state-owned carrier, according to a memo seen by media.
Al Baker who built and transformed Qatar Airways to become one of the global giants will be succeeded by Badr Mohammed Al Meer, currently chief operating officer of Hamad International Airport, the source familiar with the matter said. The flamboyant executive is also credited for having been pivotal in Qatar’s successful hosting of the IATA General Assembly and the World Cup 2022.
Al Baker’s resignation was announced to staff in an official circular, seen by media, from Chairman Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi who paid tribute to his “27 years of remarkable service”.
Qatar Airways could not immediately be reached for comment.
Al Baker was appointed CEO in 1997, three years after the airline’s launch, and has been instrumental in transforming Qatar Airways into a major international carrier that competes against the likes of Dubai’s Emirates and Turkish Airlines.
He also became synonymous with a shift in the global aviation map towards the Gulf, as carriers swept up passengers transiting between East and West, and regularly clashed with U.S. and European airline chiefs on trade and labour issues.
Al Baker frequently made headlines by goading Western plane giants Airbus and Boeing over their strategies, or factory workmanship, and led the airline during a bitter recent dispute with Airbus over damage to the surface of A350 aircraft.
Airbus and Qatar Airways settled at the end of January, averting a rare and potentially damaging UK court trial in the jet sector. Speaking earlier this year in Berlin, Al Baker called the settlement a “win-win”.
He also became a public voice for Qatar during a diplomatic boycott by neighbouring Arab states in 2017-2021, and pushed a strategy of keeping routes open during the pandemic to bolster the presence of the national brand on the world stage.
At times, his habit of making off-the-cuff remarks garnered criticism and would subsequently require him to apologise, such as in 2018 when he said a woman would not able to do his job.
Al Baker’s retirement was first reported on X, formerly known as Twitter, by aviation analyst Alex Macheras.
The move came after it was announced on Sunday that Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamid Al Thani had replaced Al Baker as the country’s top tourism official. No reason was given for the decision.
It was not immediately clear whether Al Baker was retiring from other posts, which include serving as the chief executive of Hamad International Airport and of Qatar Duty Free.
This article was first published by Reuters
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