Qatar Airways’ CEO made some pretty unflattering remarks about British Airways at the weekend, and this isn’t a simple case of competitors trying to trash each other…
Qatar Airways is the largest shareholder in BA’s parent company, IAG
Akbar Al Baker is known for his outspoken comments, and now he’s decided to speak about the state of British Airways, the U.K. flag carrier.
For context, Qatar Airways is the largest shareholder of BA’s parent company IAG, holding 25%. The airlines are both members of the oneworld alliance.
For those reasons, you might expect the ceo of Qatar Airways to be talking good about one of his associated companies, though that’s not Al Baker’s style…
Al Baker thinks BA is a ‘low-cost airline’ that he scores just two out of ten
In an interview published in the Sunday Times yesterday, Al Baker takes a series of shots at BA, saying:
- BA management “lost focus” and reduced the airline to a “low-cost carrier” that he’d score just two marks out of ten
- The airline’s ‘To Fly, To Serve’ motto no longer means anything
- Qatar Airways decided to invest because they wanted BA to “get the glitter back”
- Qatar wants BA to be an airline that “doesn’t sell food but serves food” (BA introduced a paid food service in short-haul economy)
- Airlines that sell premium economy tickets (like BA, but not Qatar Airways) are ripping off customers as “it’s the most uncomfortable seat”
Away from BA, Al Baker lets rip on Emirates (for being a “gas-guzzling dinosaur) and Dubai, which he describes as a “Covid-19 super-spreader”.
Seemingly the only positive thing he had to say about BA is the airline’s new CEO Sean Doyle, who Al Baker describes as “a very good leader” who has his confidence…
He’s right about BA, to a degree
British Airways is hardly setting the bar when it comes to premium service, but a score of two out of ten seems harsh. Perhaps BA’s worst product is the eight-across, climb-over-your-neighbour Club World business class cabin, but this is being addressed with the rollout of a superior Club Suites business product.
BA also took some flak for penny pinching in the first class cabin, where they cut canapés and removed fresh flowers from bathrooms (though these cuts were later reversed).
Whatever problems there are at BA, you can’t seriously put them in the same league as Pakistan International Airlines, for instance (though perhaps they are a zero out of ten in Al Baker’s book?).
While BA definitely has its shortcomings, I personally appreciate the fact that BA has the most accessible first class product of any airline in Europe, meaning I don’t need to re-mortgage every time I fly it.
Sure, there are bigger seats and better food out there, but BA first class is still a solid product. More often than not, I found myself able to get a seat in first, either by paying outright when there are reasonably-priced fares (trying doing that with Air France) or by redeeming miles for an upgrade from business class (availability can be pretty good if you book in advance or fly a less premium route).
What concerns me now is that first class availability will be much harder to come by, going forward, given that BA is retiring older jets like the Boeing 747, which had lots of first class seats. There are also question marks over the future of the A380, another plane offering a decent amount of first class capacity.
Aside from the onboard product, I think BA’s frequent flyer scheme and its customer service, particularly when things go wrong, are far superior to Qatar Airways.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that, while BA isn’t the most world’s most luxurious airline, it is a very profitable airline, so perhaps Qatar Airways’ investment in IAG was a smart one after all…
This weekend, Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al Baker has rubbished British Airways, calling the U.K. flag carrier a two out of ten airline and a low-cost carrier.
All of which is unfortunate, and perhaps a little surprising, given that Qatar Airways is the largest shareholder in IAG, BA’s parent company.
There’s definitely some truth in his comments, though I personally don’t rate BA as bad as what’s being claimed.
What do you make of Al Baker’s comments on British Airways?