Qatar Airways has become 100 per cent state-owned after the government bought out private investors, including a former prime minister, its chief executive Akbar Al Baker said Monday.
Al Baker said the acquisition took place last year, shortly after a political shake-up in which Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem was removed from the post of prime minister.
The airline became “100 per cent government-owned at the end of July” when 50 per cent of the company was purchased from the investors including Sheikh Hamad, Al Baker told reporters in Dubai.
“It was not only Hamad Bin Jassem; there were other shareholders,” he said at the Arabian Travel Market.
He declined to comment on the motives for the buyout and said he did not know how much the ex-premier had received for his stake.
Qatar Airways, he remarked, would start revealing its results now that the carrier was government owned.
Qatar Airways, along with Dubai’s Emirates and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad, have snatched a sizeable share of the long-haul travel sector, turning their home cities into major hub on the routes to Asia and Australasia.
The three are major clients of aircraft manufacturers, with extensive lists of orders from Boeing and Airbus.
Baker said the recent soft opening of Doha’s new airport should allow the carrier to expand unhindered, noting “growth was blocked by the capacity of the current airport” in Doha.
He added the much-delayed Hamad International Airport, which opened last week, has an annual capacity to handle 30 million passengers which can be pushed to 45 million passengers if needed.
The new international airport, built at a cost of $15.5 billion, welcomed its first commercial flight on Wednesday.
Initially, the facility will only be open to 10 airlines with other carriers, including Qatar Airways, expected to use it from May 27.
Baker also complained of airspace congestion in the Gulf region, saying limiting space for commercial carriers in favour of military use is “not conducive” to the aviation sector.