After over a quarter-century of leading Qatar Airways, Akbar Al-Baker will resign from the chief executive position on November 5, 2023.
In 27 years, Akbar Al-Baker has grown Qatar Airways from a regional carrier to one of the largest luxury airlines in the world. Starting in November 2023, it will be someone else’s company to lead.
The flag carrier announced Al-Baker will resign his position on November 5, 2023, to be succeeded by Doha Hamad International Airport (DOH) chief operating officer Badr Mohammed Al-Meer.
Baker Credited for Modernizing Airline and Controversial Comments
Al-Baker spent his life in business and aviation, credited in his official Qatar Airways biography as an Economics and Commerce graduate who worked his way up the nation’s Civil Aviation Directorate. In 1997, Al-Baker was elevated to the office of CEO, with the goal of transforming the nation’s airline.
Over his 27-year career, Al-Baker transformed the regional carrier to an aviation giant, flying to over 130 destinations around the world. The airline says his leadership led to the advancement of the business class QSuites in 2017, creating the first ever double-bed product for the cabin. In addition to leading Qatar Airways, Al-Baker also led several of Qatar’s aviation businesses, including Hamad International Airport, Qatar Aviation Services, and Qatar Duty Free. Among his honors are the French Legion of Honor, the CAPA Centre for Aviation Executive of the Year in 2017, and twice served as the chair of the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Board of Governors.
His reign at the airline did not come without controversy. In 2015, America’s legacy carriers accused Qatar Airways – along with fellow Middle East airlines Emirates and Etihad Airways – of accepting illegal subsidies from their governments. In response to some of the rhetoric, Al-Baker said of former Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson: “Let him come face me in any forum…I will hang him on a wall.” He also once called U.S. flight attendants “grandmothers,” said an airline’s chief executive “…Has to be led by a man, because it’s a very challenging position,” and once threatened to leave the Oneworld alliance when Qantas objected to Qatar expanding into Australia.
The airline gave no details to why he was leaving the position, instead opting to thank him for his leadership and contributions to the 2022 FIFA World Cup held in the country.
Replacing him in the post is Badr Mohammed Al-Meer, who has held the COO title for Hamad International Airport since 2014. In a paid question-and-answer discussion in Forbes Middle East, the executive noted his thoughts on the importance of the airport and his plans for airport expansion. Under his “Phase A” plan, the airport seeks to serve 58 million flyers per year, adding a second hotel, and increasing the number of lounges.
Share your thoughts about the legacy of Akbar Al-Baker on the FlyerTalk Forums.
Feature image: Joe Cortez for FlyerTalk