Skift Q&A: Qatar Airways’ CEO on How Airlines and Airports Should Work Together
Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways. Photo by Qatar Airways
The Qatar model isn’t one that can be easily copied in other destinations, but the methodology and the planning that has gone into its development provide a roadmap for destinations trying to make transportation work in the 21st century.
As part of our in-depth report “Airports as Destinations: The Rise of User Experience,” Skift spoke with Akbar Al Baker, who has served as CEO of Qatar Airways since 1997. Over the past decade and a half, Qatar as a destination and an airline grew immensely and grew as an international hub. He is also leading the development of Hamad International Airport, the giant new airport being built in Doha.
Skift: What are the advantages of an airline and airport working together?
Akbar Al Baker: It’s imperative to have airlines and airports work together. This ensures strong communication, streamlined passenger flow, and mutual end benefits. Normally, airlines’ touch points are limited to check-in, baggage, and boarding – leaving the rest of the traveler experience to the airport. Qatar Airways is different. We want to ensure all travelers have an efficient, enjoyable, 5-star experience on the ground and in the air.
Qatar Airways was very much involved in the design of Doha International Airport. It is designed around the requirements of the passenger. It is efficient, modern, and user friendly. The Premium Terminal is designed to create an inviting ambience – one of allowing passengers to unwind and enjoy the facilities available such as a spa, Jacuzzi, sauna, and duty-free shopping, all in the serene surroundings of water features.
Skift: How will the airport reflect the local culture and give visitors a welcome and a goodbye hug and make them want to go through?
Al Baker: Qataris are known for their hospitality, and at Qatar Airways it is the cornerstone of our service philosophy. Our airline seeks to offer passengers a blend of the airline’s signature 5-star service with the warmth and grace of Qatari hospitality to all its passengers.
The Doha International Airport also offers arriving or departing passengers a taste of true Arabian hospitality with the assistance of Al Maha Services. A team member will meet the passenger in the De- parture Hall or at the gate, assist with luggage, and escort them to the lounges. Our up-market, exclusive Al Maha Arrivals Lounge is unique, in that, we have dedicated Immigration clearance facilities to fast track guests through the passport clearance formalities. Guests can relax in comfort and enjoy some light refreshments and catch up on the daily news, whilst their visa is being processed.
Skift: How does the surrounding area integrate with the airport as an economic unit? Also, what will make Hamad International a more attractive destination or stopover than other regional hubs such as Dubai?
Al Baker: Hamad International will be the world’s first airport to accommodate unrestricted operations by all commercial aircraft, including the A380. Other features will include a new Emiri (royal) Terminal complex for VIP flights with additional hardstands, cargo terminal buildings, aircraft hangars and associated airline and air- port ancillary features. The complex will include an airport hotel and a 100-room transit hotel within the terminal for the convenience of transfer passengers.
Aviation is at the foundation of our economy, and millions of visi- tors and workers travel through Doha each year. The tourism sector benefits tremendously (with tours, hotels, restaurants, desert safaris, museums, exhibits, and retail shops).
Qatar Airways has set up a specific management division called “Discover Qatar” to facilitate the development of Qatar as a tourist destination. DQ brings together accommodation, transport, tours and excursion suppliers together and ensures only quality Ground services to tour operators who want to feature Qatar as a destination.
To understand more about how airports are changing, get our latest report: “Airports as Destinations: The Rise of User Experience.”
This 26-page report will show how the changing business environment is turning airports into more welcoming places. It will explain the history and context for the trend and what’s coming next.
Check out the extract below, and buy the report here.