Qatar Airways urges more access to Canadian market

By Regan E. Doherty

DOHA, Oct 31 (BestGrowthStock) – Qatar Airways’ chief executive
called on Sunday for greater access for the fast expanding Gulf
carrier to the Canadian market, saying the development of
bilateral trade ties may depend on it.

“We have Canadian companies trying to sell us equipment. But
trade is a two-way street. We will give them trade, in return we
want to access their markets,” Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker
told a conference in the capital, Doha.

The rapid expansion of Qatar Airways, Dubai’s Emirates
(EMIRA.UL: ), and Etihad of Abu Dhabi has unnerved older airlines
and fuelled mutual accusations of protectionism. Many carriers
fear Gulf-based superjumbos will drain their own hubs.

Canada’s military lost access this month to a military camp
near Dubai, which it used to support troops in Afghanistan,
after Ottawa refused to allow Emirates and Etihad to increase
flights to Canada.

“They just want to throw peanuts at us. But the genie is out
of the bottle. They will not be able to restrain our capacity,”
Baker said.

On Saturday, Qatar Airways confirmed that it had carried an
explosive package that was later seized in Dubai. The parcel had
been flown from Yemen with a stop-over in the Qatari capital
Doha, it said.

Without referring to the security scare over the explosive
packages bound for the United States, Baker said security was a
problem for all airlines .

“It is everybody’s problem, because we are all in the same
boat. But we are overreacting sometimes by putting passengers
through excessive inconvenience,” he said, citing the removal of
belts, flat shoes and laptop computers as excessive.

Baker said he was less than impressed with security on
internal U.S. flights recently.

“Quite frankly, I found it very lax. But you cannot make
anything 100 percent. No matter how many checks you do, there
will still be cracks. The only way to fill the cracks is to
invest in technology.”

Baker said he expected more consolidation in the industry.

“There has been over the last 40 years a fashion to launch
airlines. Then the recession came, and some folded. We are
expecting more to fold. So there will be automatic and natural
consolidation, without having to spend money on this,” he said.

“Air France (AIRF.PA: ), Lufthansa (LHAG.DE: )– they all want
to protect their turf. But they do not have the capacity to
grow. They are trying to blame us for their shortcomings.
Instead they should fix their own inefficiencies.”

Qatar, the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural
gas, is building a new airport with the capacity to accommodate
50 million passengers per year.

Construction on the New Doha International Airport (NDIA)
will be partially completed by October of next year, with total
completion slated for February 2012, Bernardo Gogna, director of
the NDIA, said at the conference.

Air Canada’s (ACa.TO: )(ACb.TO: ) chief executive this year
accused Emirates of wanting to “flood” Canadian skies with
airline seats so it can scoop up travellers and divert them
through Dubai.

Qatar Airways urges more access to Canadian market