Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways for the last 27 years, has announced his resignation.
His last day at the airline will be 5th November. He will be replaced by Mohammed Al-Meer.
Al-Meer is currently Chief Operating Officer at Hamad International Airport, which isn’t necessarily an obvious stepping stone. The airline is clearly keen to keep a Qatari national in the top job.
Al Baker’s tenure has been remarkable not just for its length but for the huge growth of the airline over that period. To put this in context, in April 1995 – just 18 months before Akbar took the top job – the airline had a grand total of two aircraft and employed just 75 people. It has now won the Skytrax ‘World’s Best Airline’ award seven times.
Akbar was on a par with Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary for the title of ‘most outspoken aviation CEO’. In reality, this actually means ‘the CEO most likely to speak honestly and openly’ about current issues. An hour in his company – and I’ve spent more time with Akbar than any other airline CEO over the years – is effectively giving you a mini Masters degree in airline economics.
His approach won him a lot of respect in the industry, if not necessarily friends, and it will be a poorer industry without him.