Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker tells CNN that while he “very much cares about sustainability,” there is not enough will in the airline industry to reach net zero by 2050.
“I genuinely believe that will be very difficult to achieve,” he told CNN’s Becky Anderson in Doha.
The pair discussed the airline’s plans to try to get to net-zero, the challenges facing the aviation industry in 2023, and the post-World Cup 2023 landscape.
Key quotes from Al Baker:
On Qatar Airways’ commitment to sustainability:
“I very much care about sustainability. Qatar Airways has today one of the youngest fleets in the world, and we keep on investing – we have nearly 150 aircraft on order that need to be delivered, and they are all absolutely fuel efficient. We are hugely involved in recyclable materials in the airline, we are constantly investing in improving fuel burn on the airplane – but there is only so much we can do.”
“The industry should also get involved. The oil companies need to roll up their sleeves and provide us sustainable fuel in the volumes we want, at the price where the passenger will be able to afford. Which is not happening.”
On whether he believes reaching net-zero by 2050 is possible:
“I genuinely believe that it will be very difficult to achieve the targets by 2050, because there is not that much will. 2050 is not too far away.”
On whether hosting the World Cup 2022 was a good investment:
“It will be a good return on investment over a period of time. Of course, you know, you don’t invest something and you expect the return to happen tomorrow. This is a long-term investment my country has done. And I’m sure that it will give a massive return over a period of time. And that time will not be too long.”
On lessons learned from the World Cup 2022:
“The most valuable lesson we learned was to ignore everything, mind our own business, do the event that we wanted to host so that we don’t get diverted by all this jealousy, and all this negative publicity, to see if this whole fee for exercise that my country has been working for nearly 11 years, has sacrificed so much for it. They wanted it to fail, and it didn’t.”
On Qatar Airlines’ strategy for an increasingly competitive aviation industry in the region:
“I like competition. We have been in the middle of competition, very strong competition, much stronger than Riyadh Air would bring to us. And we survived. And today we are the second largest operator in our region. And don’t forget that Saudi Arabia is also a big market with over 40 million population, Riyadh there has themselves a very huge market to serve. And they are opening up in a way. And I’m sure that this opening up of the country will also help them. But at the same time, we are not going to sit with our eyes shut, we will make sure that we protect our market share. But at the same time, we are open to work with them if they want to work with us.”
On slashing prices to compete with other airlines in the region:
“I don’t believe in slashing prices. If we had to do that, I think we would have undermined many other airlines in the region which we didn’t. We need to be profitable. We are not here as charity.”
On expanding further in India:
“Unfortunately, India has a very closed services regime, and it’s usually protectionist. I keep on dwelling on the authorities there [that] the more they open up, the more affluent the aviation industry in India will become. It won’t be the other way around. India’s middle class is 100 million more than the total population of the United States. There is huge purchasing power that people have, but the air connectivity is bad, and they don’t want to open up.”
Sources: Nishkka Manglani, Senior Account Manager, Houbara Communications