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Qatar Airways CEO: “Don’t Listen to the Crap My Competitors Are Saying”

The OTR attended a press conference that Qatar Airways held a little while back to announce their inaugural flights to the US (4 flights weekly to Newark, via Geneva, with nonstops from Qatar to Washington, DC, coming soon).  The airline is an impressive story, growing from nothing 10 years ago, to having 35% year over year growth since then — and continuing until 2010.  A few notes:

— They’re building the only new airport in the world (not new terminal, new airport), a $10 billion affair that will house the largest runway in the world at 15,000 feet.

— They have the only dedicated first class terminal, which is extremely impressive, though at the fares they charge I’ll never see it.

— Their CEO is quite colorful.  He was actually rather funny at times ("Don’t listen to the crap my competitors are saying").  And he handled a question (mostly) well about whether Qatar Airways will market to Jewish people.  Though he did say, "What makes you think rich Jewish people haven’t flown (us) yet?" which sounds slightly offensive but wasn’t, though the laughs he garnered seemed to be mixed with a bit of uncomfortableness.

— I’ve mentioned this before, but along with Etihad and Emirates these Middle East – based carriers have changed the game for European airlines, who used to have a lock on Europe – to – Asia travel.  This is especially true for people flying from Europe (and now the US) to the Indian Subcontinent.    These airlines have alternately managed to cater to the huge ex-pat worker population that toils in the Middle East and returns home once a year (every other year?) and at the same time target high-end passengers with first and business classes that are second to none.  Remember — no one had heard of any of these guys 10 years ago (in part because Etihad didn’t yet exist), but they’ve changed the whole game for European and Asian airlines.  Very impressive…And if Americans can get over their ignorance about the safety of these airlines (they are among the most safe in the world), they’ll discover it’s a far better way to get to India than suffering in the back on American.

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  1. International Traveler

    Although Qatar is a very good airline, as a frequent Middle-East traveler, I prefer Emirates (EK) because of the on-time departure structure and all around service. The other carriers are very good please don’t misunderstand, but the level of service that EK has is far superior. I can only hope that some day soon the other carriers will arrive to that stage. I would love to make the comparison at that time. I am also looking forward to more flights from the US to the Middle East. I would love to see LAX, ORD, DFW and MIA to name a few cities

  2. Based on what Qatar Airways’ CEO said, we’ll see more flights soon. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Houston on their route map in the next 2 years.

  3. Interesting read.

    “And if Americans can get over their ignorance about the safety of these airlines…. ”

    Totally agree. I personally enjoy flying on a lot of the Asian airlines… it is just a flight but the service, kindness and respect from the flight attendants, is just superior. You see this with the service in the hotels over there also. Most of the top 10 hotels in the world ranking are in Asia last time I checked.

    But I did have a white knuckle flight once from Singapore to Bangkok in the late 90’s … forgot the airline name (1970’s dingy yellow interior), but they only flew once a day in the late evenings.. cheap but scary..

    American airline companies should learn something from the American auto industry. Foreign airlines are going to start taking the chair out from underneath them…

    Interesting ABC news video on http://www.yahoo.com right now titled,
    “2007 is the worst year yet for flight delays”. It would be interesting to read the results of the research study from MIT.

  4. I totally agree! US carriers treat passengers like cattle. “Get them in and get them off.” “Restrict this and that.” “Pay extra for this and that.” People when is it going to end? International carriers still focus on service, ON-TIME departures and professionalism. US carriers say that they believe in customer service but if you accept that as the true, I have swamp land to sell you.

    I travel over twenty times a year to Europe and Asia and find when I get on a Cathay or Emirates or Singapore flight, I am treated like royalty. Not US carriers. I recently flew Paris with a famous US carrier and found that I was on a US carrier all the way to Paris. Only difference, the Flight Attendant spoke Franch. I took an International carrier from JFK to Hamburg and was treated magnificently. You are right! Look what happened when the US car dealers cut cost. Do we have to do the same with US carriers?

  5. OK. agreed, the Gulf carriers are eating everyone alive when it comes to subcontinental traffic, but how big is that market? They are certainly limited in flights across the atlantic, and might grab some SE-Asia/Europe traffic, but where else will they expand?

  6. The market between the Middle East and the subcontinent is actually quite large. But Etihad, Qatar and Emirates also have strong traffic to Europe, growing traffic to Asia, a nice chunk to Africa and a growing base to Australia & New Zealand. Emirates also says that it can fly anywhere in the world nonstop (or will be able to soon).

  7. “They have the only dedicated first class terminal, which is extremely impressive, though at the fares they charge I’ll never see it.”

    Lufthansa has a First Class Terminal at Frankfurt, and were first at that game actually…

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