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Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker has termed as “unfair” the stand taken by some European carriers against Gulf airlines and affirmed his airline does not receive any “government subsidy”.
Recently, Germany’s largest airline Lufthansa called on European regulators to block plans by Abu Dhabi’s state-owned Etihad Airways to invest in ailing Italian carrier Alitalia, saying it would amount to unfair competition. Lufthansa has fiercely lobbied against Gulf airlines such as Etihad, Emirates, and Qatar Airways, and their fast-paced expansion in Europe and said in the past they benefit from “unfair” state aid.
Lufthansa said Europe would do better to keep its airline industry mostly privatised, Reuters reported.
Al-Baker said, “It is not true that we are subsidised. The fact of the matter is that the highest fuel price we pay as an airline is in Qatar. We are fighting for cheaper fuel price … so that we can expand and that other airlines that operate to and from Doha can benefit.”
Al-Baker told Gulf Times yesterday that they (European carriers) were forgetting the fact they were all subsidised some two decades ago.
“Just two decades ago they were all state-owned … were nearly bankrupt…their governments were bailing them out. Still there are many airlines in the world that are state-owned and receiving subsidies. Why no one is talking about them. Is it because they are all from big countries? Are they afraid of talking about them? Just because we are Gulf carriers … and are small countries … they want to criticise us. I think this is unfair,” al-Baker pointed out.
Asked whether the rapid growth of the Big Three Gulf carriers were rattling the European airlines, al-Baker said; “You must understand they are also growing in the phase of our growth. So what then is the problem?”
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