Cardiff: Qatar Airways (QA) group chief executive Akbar Al Baker has a private pilot licence and has steered the airline he has been heading for 21 years now. He is now planning to expand his conglomerate’s operations in a big way outside, what he terms ‘illegal’ blockade-hit Qatar. He spoke to TOI in Cardiff and revealed his new plans for India — that go beyond airline. Excerpts:
You have been interested in IndiGo for a long time. Are you still pursuing that?
Rahul Bhatia (IndiGo cofounder) is a dear friend. He has a very well-run airline. I have said many times and will say again that if there was an opportunity for us to take a large stake in IndiGo, QA will be interested. But that has to happen prior to me launching an airline (in India). Once I launch an airline there, then I will not be interested in anybody’s shares.
The government of India is divesting in Air India. Do you plan to bid for it?
We are not bidding for Air India. I know that there are entities claiming QA is interested in AI. That is not true.
There are often reports that you are looking at investing in some Indian carrier apart from AI. Are they true?
Some private airlines from time to time keep mentioning that they are in talks with QA. That is not true. We are not in talks with anyone. This is done to boost share prices by (either the airlines making those claims) or individuals hoping to buy and sell shares based on such false announcements. For last 6-7 years, I have been saying such claims are made to boost (their) share prices.