ATM: Qatar Airways puts Saudi plans on hold

CEO Akbar Al Baker also told ATM that Meridiana talks were ongoing



Qatar Airways is no closer to beginning operations with its Saudi Arabian carrier Al Maha, the company’s chief executive confirmed on Monday.

The airline was originally meant to launch in the fourth quarter of 2014 but has been hit by repeated delays.

Speaking to reporters at the Arabian Travel Market conference, Akbar Al Baker said the country was an important market for Qatar Airways and Saudi authorities were showing an interest in increasing competitiveness in the aviation sector, but talks were still ongoing.

“Unfortunately we are still in the process of certification and we hope that we will be able to get an agreement with the authorities in order for us to start operating these flights,” he said.

Al Baker also indicated that the airline was still interested in taking a significant minority stake in ailing Italian carrier Meridiana following the resignation of its chief executive at the end of last week.

“Yes we are in advanced negotiations with Meridiana and we hope we will conclude but we will not sign anything unless we are absolutely certain our partnership will be a success,” he said.

The Qatar Airways chief indicated negotiations with employees were continuing, particularly with regards to staff reductions. “Initially there will be some pains and they have to accept this,” he said.

More broadly, Al Baker indicated the company had seen robust growth in the last three months of its financial year to March 31 and said it would grow its capacity by 26 to 30 per cent in 2016/2017 with the addition of 36 new planes.

He said the airline would announce another five new routes this year and could also publish its financial results for the first time once an audit has been completed

“I hope we will be [in a position to publish them] some time in June,” he said.