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Qatar Airways CEO will step down after nearly 3 decades leading carrier

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NEW YORK (AP 23 Oct 2023) — Qatar Airways Group chief executive Akbar Al Baker is stepping down after 27 years leading the company.

Al Baker’s retirement will go into effect Nov. 5, Qatar Airways said Monday. He will be succeeded by Badr Mohammed Al-Meer — who currently serves as the chief operating officer of Hamad International Airport in Doha, the hub of Qatar’s national carrier.

In Monday’s announcement, Qatar Airways said that it “has grown to become one of the most recognisable and trusted brands globally” under Al Baker’s leadership. The company pointed to seven “World’s Best Airline” wins, among other allocates.

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During his tenure at Qatar Airways, Al Baker became known for being one of the most outspoken leaders in the airline industry — with a hard-changing, sometimes confrontational approach that carried into negotiations with manufacturers and others.

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Al Baker has also made some controversial comments over his career — including suggesting that women can’t run airlines and for calling American carriers “crap” and that their passengers were “always being served by grandmothers.” He later apologized for both remarks.

Last year, Al Baker lashed out at critics of Qatar hosting the FIFA World Cup, saying his nation will “always rub salt into the wound” of its adversaries — following concerns from some other countries and soccer teams over how Qatar manages its vast population of low-paid migrant workers and its stance on LGBTQ rights.

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In July, Qatar Airways reported a profit of $1.2 billion over the last fiscal year, boosted in part by the country’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. That’s down slightly from the $1.5 billion profit posted the year prior — in part due to a spike in operating expenses, particularly in jet fuels as energy prices rose after the grip of the pandemic loosened and air travel resumed.

Qatar Airway’s earned revenue of $20.9 billion over the fiscal year, up from $14.4 billion the year before.

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