The calls for boycotting Qatar Airways in India were made by “misled” individuals and do not worry the airline, chief executive officer Akbar Al Baker told The Hindu on Monday.
When asked if he was concerned about the such calls, the Qatar Airways CEO replied with an emphatic “no”.
“It is being done by a few misled individuals and I don’t want to comment on that. Everybody is free to say whatever they want against anybody,” he told The Hindu on the sidelines of International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s Annual General Meeting in Doha.
Earlier this month, several Islamic nations including Qatar, Kuwait, UAE and Saudi Arabia registered their protest against offensive remarks made by BJP leader Nupur Sharma against Prophet Muhammed. As a supermarket in Kuwait removed Indian products from its shelves, some in India called for boycotting Qatar Airways.
But these calls had no real impact on the airline’s passenger demand “because educated people know that what went around was just nonsense,” the CEO said.
The recent developments have not dented Mr. Al Baker’s interest in buying stakes in India’s largest domestic airline, IndiGo. However, he will not take advantage of the bitter feud between the two promoters of the airline, Rakesh Gangwal and Rahul Bhatia. The former is exiting the airline and will offload 36.6% of his stake in IndiGo in the next five years. A contentious clause that allowed the two promoters to have the first right of refusal during a stake sale by one of them was removed last year making the process simpler.
“We will only buy something from Rahul [Bhatia], not from someone else,” he said about his long-time friend.
(Writer is traveling to Doha on an invitation from IATA)
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