Qatar Airways narrows full-year loss with sales surge, says CEO

The carrier will also continue to fly to Iran, says the airline’s chief.

DO NOT USE ***Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker***DO NOT USE
'Our losses are half of what we budgeted,' Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker told reporters on Wednesday [File: James Beck/Bloomberg]

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said a surge in sales and a higher load factor will narrow losses for the fiscal year ending in March.

“Our losses are half of what we budgeted,” Al Baker said at a media briefing in Kuwait on Wednesday. Cost-cutting and “being very aggressive in the way we sell” has allowed the improvement.

The losses are due to operating expenses and not caused by the Saudi Arabia-led blockade of the country, he said, adding that break even could come in the next financial year and profitability in the one ending in 2022.

Qatar Airways has been grappling with higher fuel costs and a weaker regional economy as well as being affected by a tough operating environment cause by the Saudi-led airspace closures. In its search for growth, the CEO said talks about investing in India’s IndiGo continue.

The Doha-based carrier is ready to buy as much as IndiGo “can give us,” Al Baker said.

A stake in an Indian carrier would help Qatar Airways to compete with its Middle Eastern rivals by expanding in a market where air-travel penetration remains low. The Gulf carrier forged a code sharing partnership with IndiGo and has asked local authorities to temporarily allow it to add more seats on higher-volume routes to fill the gap left by Jet Airways, a partner of rival Etihad Airways, which went bust in April.

The Qatar Airways CEO also said he expects to take delivery of the company’s first Boeing Co. 777X jetliners in the middle of next year, a delay exacerbated by the plane maker’s focus on the 737 Max grounding and production halt. Qatar Airways will also continue to fly to Iran, he said.

Source: Bloomberg