Qatar Airways has announced that its long-time group chief executive Akbar Al Baker will step down next month after 27 years at the top of the airline.
The move was unexpected, and the operator didn’t give a reason for his departure which is set for November 5. The flag carrier said Badr Mohammed Al Meer, the chief operating officer of Doha/Hamad Airport – the company’s base – would replace Al Baker in the position.
An outspoken personality, Al Baker joined Qatar Airways within three years of it commencing operations and is credited with building it into the industry giant it is today.
“Under [his] leadership, Qatar Airways has grown to become one of the most recognisable and trusted brands globally, synonymous with customer service quality and the highest of standards,” a statement from the airline said.
In recent years, he had a very public spat with Airbus over an issue with the airline’s fleet of A350s which according to Al Baker, were experiencing “accelerated degradation of the skin of the aeroplane”.
At a speech to the Aviation Club UK in 2021, he said the European manufacturer was “climbing up a very tall tree and doesn’t know how to get down again” in response to the issue.
For its part, an Airbus spokesperson told Key.Aero at the time that the company understands the root cause of the issue and the OEM was working with EASA – the European Union Aviation Safety Agency – and customers “in order to provide enhancements”.
Al Baker’s departure from Qatar Airways ends one of the longest managerial reigns in the aviation industry.