'We are not interested in any airline except Indigo'

'We are not interested in any airline except Indigo'

Qatar Airways has a very keen interest in growing in India and also investing in the aviation industry. In an e-mail interview, Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker explains to Deccan Herald’s Benny Antony about the airline’s interest in picking up stake in IndiGo and the need for  more traffic rights

You are the official airline partner for the pre-departure orientation for students. Please throw light on it?
According to ‘Indian Students Mobility Report 2015’ prepared by New Delhi-based MM Advisory Services, the number of Indian students going abroad for studies has crossed three lakh in 2014. Qatar Airways has seen a consistent increase in students going to the US over the last few years, and given the current scale and tourism industry growth projections for Indian outbound sector, Qatar Airways has partnered with the United States India Educational Foundation (USIEF). We are the official airline partner for the pre-departure orientation for students who have applied to US universities for further education. The airline is participating at the pre-departure orientation sessions for the second successive year.

What are the initiatives taken by the aviation segment to cater to the requirements of the Indian students?
Qatar Airways supports students through multiple global initiatives such as special student fares, additional baggage allowances, and online donation facilities to support children’s education programmes. We have introduced an exclusive offer for students travelling from India to the US, Australia, Canada, and Europe, where students who book and travel before March 31, 2016, can avail additional baggage allowance of up to 40 kg.

Why are Middle-East airlines popular with Indian students?        
Qatar Airways has always strived to provide students with great opportunities to avail special fares along with additional baggage and enjoy a premium travel experience onboard. Apart from additional baggage allowance, students also have an option of availing exclusive benefits and rewards with our Privilege Club programme.   

As far as the aviation sector is concerned, do you have any request to the Indian government?
The previous government had promised us that they would be talking to Qatar to increase Qatar Airways’ market reach in India, but it never materialised. We would like to reiterate this request. Qatar has nearly 6,50,000 Indians and growing, which is a very large number. Qatar is a very close friend of India. Qatar provides natural gas and fertiliser requirements to India, and the least traffic right is provided to Qatar Airways, which is extremely unfair as other countries that enjoy less economic relationship with India have been given more traffic rights.   

Do you have plans to increase the number of seats to India?
We hope the Indian Civil Aviation authorities will give additional access to Gulf carriers in India, and if that happens, we would like to operate more flights out of India to cater to the demands of global traffic. We would love to serve more Indian passengers.  

Will you introduce new routes in India and also routes from outside India to India?        
I have great confidence in the Narendra Modi-led government. He is a very forward-looking leader with a business mind. Our aggressive growth strategy has always stressed on the significance of the Indian market. We plan to seek more capacity in India, and also increase frequency on existing routes with the support from the Indian government.  

What are your views on the Indian aviation sector?        
India is growing as an economic hub and shows enormous potential both as a competitive tourist passenger market and for business travellers. The Indian aviation sector needs to look at growing airport infrastructure and modernise air space management. A strong aviation regulator in India is crucial for passengers, as well as for operators. Our aggressive growth strategy has always stressed on the significance of the Indian market. We plan to seek more capacity in India, increase frequency on existing routes, and recruit more people from India.

The Indian government has opened up FDI in aviation sector. Are you interested in picking up stake in some Indian carrier?        
Qatar Airways will always have a very keen interest in growing in India and investing in the aviation industry. We believe that Qatar Airways would be able to deliver results faster than all the new entrants in the Indian market.

Is it true that you are interested in IndiGo?
IndiGo is an airline that is not for sale and we’re not in talks; we just have a personal relationship with IndiGo’s co-founder Rahul Bhatia. He has indicated that they are not planning to sell a stake in IndiGo, but once they consider, he knows Qatar Airways is interested. We want to get into a situation where we work together, because it is the best airline in India today. We have a very high regard for IndiGo as it is the most efficiently-run airline in the country.   
If not IndiGo, would you be interested in some other carrier. If yes, can you name them?
Qatar Airways will not be interested in any airline except Indigo.

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