European airlines ‘cannot keep up’ with competition from Gulf

By David Harding, AFP

DOHA–Qatar Airways chief Akbar al-Baker boasted Wednesday that European carriers ��cannot keep up�� with competition from Gulf carriers, as his fast-growing airline welcomed the first Airbus A350 plane. In a wide-ranging press conference, Baker also revealed that Qatar Airways is carrying out tests to become the first airline in the world where all flight data recordings are streamed directly from the plane’s ��black box�� to the ground while in flight. Doha-based Qatar Airways, along with Dubai’s Emirates and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad are ��the fastest growing carriers,�� Baker told a press conference in Doha. Qatar Airways unveiled the world’s first Airbus A350 XWB commercial jet, little more than a week before the plane makes its maiden flight �X from Doha to Frankfurt.

Baker pledged to expand the service soon to other European cities and New York. The three Gulf carriers have snatched a sizable share of the long-haul sector, turning their home cities into major hubs on routes to Asia and Australasia. They are major clients of aircraft manufacturers, with extensive lists of orders from Boeing and Airbus. In November, Baker took a swipe at legacy carriers, accusing them of being ��inefficient�� and protected by EU policies. The A350 XWB (extra wide body) is the newest model to roll off the European jet maker’s production line and is the first entirely new plane to be showcased by one of the world’s two biggest aircraft makers since Boeing unveiled its ��Dreamliner�� four years ago. Tests on Flight Tracking Baker said his carrier is testing a system to track all of its planes, as aviation authorities are expected to announce new global flight tracking standards following the mysterious disappearance of Malaysian Airlines MH370 last year.

��Qatar Airways will, I hope, be the first to introduce this,�� he added. The anticipated standards could include reporting an aircraft’s position every minute after an unexpected route change, and possibly every 15 minutes during normal flights, instead of the typical half-hourly report. Meanwhile, Baker ruled out any privatization of Qatar Airways for the next decade. The state-owned flag carrier had previously considered privatization but this was shelved following the 2008 global economic crisis. Baker said any plans by the state to sell would not take place for the ��next 10 years at least.��