LONDON, UK: Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker says the British government must build a third runway at London Heathrow to avoid a "catastrophic" impact on the country's economy.
Speaking in London last week, Al Baker said the third runway is not an option, adding that the government should take action now rather than involve itself in "long winded debate and public enquiries".
While expressing support for the idea of a new "Boris Island" airport east of the capital, he said growing competition from Europe and the Gulf meant Britain couldn't wait 20–plus years for it to be built.
Acknowledging comments by Lufthansa that Gulf carriers have used government money to subsidise their growth, Al Baker suggested that instead of complaining, legacy carriers should "look at their own backyard".
He claimed that in Europe unions have taken over airlines, forcing the industry to cut capacity, scale back expansion, shed jobs and reduce service levels – quite the opposite of the Gulf business model.
"We have been considered pariahs in the global marketplace. The notion that Gulf carriers are the black sheep of the airline industry is far from reality.
"It is in Europe that the fiercest of critics have voiced their opinions. I have personally faced criticism from legacy carriers in Europe, falsely accusing Gulf carriers of using government money to subsidise growth."
He added that if Qatar Airways is criticised for government support then so should European carriers for "enjoying" decades of state-aid.
Meanwhile, the airline has announced it will start daily A330 services linking Doha with Phnom Penh via Ho Chi Minh City in February – the 11th destination in ASEAN. Other additions to what Al Baker said is an "aggressive expansion" programme next year include Maputo, Belgrade, Warsaw, Gassim, Najaf and Chicago.