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Qatar Airways/Flickr

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker

The new laptop and tablet ban onboard flights heading to the US has hurt Qatar Airways’ business, its CEO admitted this week.

It also doesn’t actually make people safer, Akbar Al Baker told CNN.

The comments are a departure from remarks the official made late last month, when the ban was first introduced.

At the time, Al Baker said that the policy was simply a “security measure” that did not target Gulf airlines unfairly.

But now, he said that the measure is ineffective because it does not stop terrorists from carrying out attacks on planes that don’t have electronics bans.

“It was not necessary to frighten passengers and put a strain on airlines,” he told CNN, continuing:

“If (Trump) continues this way, at the end of the day you will have people sitting in the airplane with underwear and nothing (else) on them.”

US, UK restrictions

Since the end of March, electronic items larger than cell phones have not been permitted inside the cabin of aircraft flying to the US from 10 Middle Eastern cities, including Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Instead, passengers must check their laptops, iPads and e-readers, among other devices. Nine airlines are affected by the ban, including Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Etihad.

HIA security

Brian Candy/Flickr

HIA security

No US carriers are on the list.

The UK has implemented a similar measure, but Gulf carriers are exempt from it.

When asked about the discrepancy, Al Baker told CNN that the US policy must have been “done in a hurry.”

He reiterated his support for President Donald Trump, someone he previously called a “friend,” but added the official must have been “ill-advised.”

Fewer passengers

To counter the ban, Qatar Airways has begun offering laptops to premium passengers. But Al Baker did admit that business has still been affected.

“Yes, we have had a drop in passengers, but it’s a manageable drop and people have started to realize that there are other ways to use laptops,” Al Baker said.

He added that each flight has seen perhaps 10 fewer passengers due to the ban. But because the airline flies to 10 US cities a day, the numbers must be adding up.

It is unclear how much longer the ban will be in place, though Emirates has previously expected it to last until at least this fall.

Thoughts?

Jennifer Lopez

The Cable Show/Flickr

Jennifer Lopez

Qatar’s national carrier has reignited a feud with rival Delta during a high-profile gala to celebrate its upcoming inaugural Doha-to-Atlanta flight.

This week’s launch party featured a private concert by American singer and actress Jennifer Lopez at Atlanta’s historic Fox Theatre – a venue sponsored in part by Delta.

The US airline said this week that it would end its 20-year support for the theater because of the event.

Qatar Airways gala in Atlanta

Qatar Airways/Flickr

Qatar Airways gala in Atlanta

“When the Fox shared its decision to continue doing business with Qatar, an airline proven to engage in business practices that harm U.S. aviation jobs and violate basic human rights, we let them know we wouldn’t be renewing our sponsorship,” Delta said in a statement, according to Bloomberg.

For his part, Al Baker said the “bizarre” move showed that Delta is “paranoid of Qatar Airways’ service,” the newswire added.

The airlines have been engaged in a war of words for more than a year over allegations that Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad receive government subsidies that give them an unfair advantage over their American competitors.

How many passengers?

On June 1, Qatar Airways will begin flying to Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Delta’s primary hub.

Previously, the national carrier’s CEO Akbar Al Baker said the route would rub “salt in the wounds” of the US airline, which he has also accused of flying “crap” airplanes.

Beneath the bickering, Delta has questions about the economic feasibility about Qatar Airways’ Doha-Atlanta route.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar Airways/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Last month, Delta executives told analysts that its research suggests that only five people a day would fly between the two cities.

However, Qatar Airways’ business model revolves around carrying passengers to other destinations after transiting through Hamad International Airport, rather than simply flying travelers to Doha.

Nevertheless, the US airline is not alone in questioning the sustainability of Qatar Airways’ rapid expansion.

After the Gulf carrier reduced its summer flight frequency on more than two dozen routes – including several US destinations – this month, some questioned if the real reason was weaker-than-expected demand, rather than just delays in aircraft deliveries, as Qatar Airways has said.

However, while in Atlanta, Al Baker reiterated that a shortage of aircraft was stalling his company’s growth plans:

And despite the skepticism, the growth of Qatar Airways has resulted in dramatic increases in the number of passengers flying through HIA.

Trump is (still) my friend

While in Atlanta, Al Baker discussed a variety of topics with reporters and once again weighed in on the US presidential race, specifically the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party.

US presidential hopeful Donald Trump, wife Melania and CEO Akbar Al Baker during launch of Doha-NYC flights in 2007.

Zimbio

US presidential hopeful Donald Trump, wife Melania and CEO Akbar Al Baker during launch of Doha-NYC flights in 2007.

After reiterating that Donald Trump was a “friend” – echoing remarks made late last year – he downplayed the controversial tycoon’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the US.

“I don’t think Trump means what he says. He does not realize that he has a lot of investment in Muslim countries and at the same time there is a very huge Muslim population in the United States,” he said in an interview with CNBC.

“Like all politicians, he says everything but once he gets elected, he will change his mind.”

Thoughts?

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Jo Christian Oterhals

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Complaining that backpacking travelers are simply looking to “lie on the beach and spend as little as possible,” the head of Qatar’s national carrier has reiterated the country’s preference for business and family tourists.

CEO Akbar Al Baker expressed the sentiment while speaking during a press conference in Australia this week to launch Qatar Airways’ new Doha-Adelaide route.

“We want to attract people of a higher standard,” Al Baker said, according to the Herald Sun.

“We like to attract all kinds of tourists as long as they are there for relaxing times, want a unique experience, want to see the culture and are very keen on the arts side of tourism.”

Target markets

Qatar has made no secret about its preference for high-end tourists in the past.

Presidential suite bedroom

Marsa Malaz Kempinski

Presidential suite bedroom

In 2011, former Qatar Tourism Authority chairman Ahmed Abdullah al-Nuaimi said that his country was deliberately investing in high-end hotels, convention centers, museums and other attractions:

“We don’t want people to come for a $50 room to lie on the beach all day and walk around with a backpack and shorts. These are not the type of people we’re targeting,” al-Nuaimi said at the time.

Qatar current tourism strategy, released in 2014, still mentions the country’s desire to attract “well-off families” and “experienced high-income travelers.”

However, the optimal mix of visitors to Qatar also includes younger individuals and “price-sensitive” tourists, the strategy states.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Sanjiban2011/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Additionally, tourism officials have called for more affordable hotels to be built in Qatar, which is currently dominated by four and five-star facilities.

Several mid-market hotels are currently under construction, including an Ibis near the existing Radisson Blu as well as a Hilton Garden Inn elsewhere on C-Ring Road.

Thoughts?