27 JUNE 2022


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Article from BTNews 27 JUNE 2022

COMMENT: The Willie & Akbar show

At very short notice Qatar Airways and its boss Akbar Al Baker saved the 2022 78th IATA AGM with a very different style of gathering at Doha last week.

The meeting should have been at Shanghai but Covid problems eliminated China’s commercial capital. 

No Airbus and Boeing evenings, the social side purely down to Qatar and its airline.

In truth it was quite easy for the host carrier with, at the centre, the Sheraton Hotel, a previous host property, and Qatar building up for the FIFA World Cup starting in November.  The country is noted for its fine hospitality.

It was also the Willie & Akbar show, IATA boss Willie Walsh liberated from the commercial considerations when Chief Executive at IAG, and Akbar Al Baker being a generous host, however exasperated when his guests treaded on the hallowed Khalifa International Stadium turf in a bid to get up close to Jennifer Lopez, the star attraction at the Grand Finale evening event.

In his industry report Walsh was sanguine quoting fellow Irishman George Bernard Shaw “science never solves a problem without creating ten more”. His dig was against politicians around the world whose claim was that “their decisions were driven by the science.  “Covid-19 was catastrophic”, said Walsh.  “It robbed our world of millions of people – family, friends and colleagues. And the response of governments dismantled connectivity, destroyed jobs and inflicted misery on people, actions justified by politicians around the world!”  No longer an airline boss he was clearly in his element.

IATA announced that Mehmet Tevfik Nane, Managing Director, Pegasus Airlines, has assumed his duties as Chair of the IATA Board for a one-year term with his airline hosting the 2023 AGM in Istanbul.  It is bound to be a less boisterous affair.

At the final press briefing Al Baker was asked about the problems of air freighting lithium batteries.  His response was that the national airline has ordered 400,000 fire resistant containers to carry this item among other explosion-prone objects. “Most of the fires we have seen in our aircraft were due to undeclared, badly packed, and sometimes refurbished lithium batteries being loaded on the aircraft.

“Some two months ago, we had a close call in one of our flights from a very small lithium battery. And we were very fortunate that it generated enough smoke to alert our pilot. And we did an emergency landing in an airport in Pakistan. It was a flight originating from the subcontinent. If the industry does not wake up, lives will be lost”.

IATA has now called on governments to further support the safe carriage of lithium batteries by developing and implementing global standards for screening, fire-testing, and incident information sharing.

Asked by BTN’s Malcolm Ginsberg why Qatar Airways chose London for its “paintwork” court case against Airbus, Al Baker said that the airline liked the British legal system “English law and English Courts”.  All Qatar Airways contracts were accomplished in that manner.  

The temperature in Qatar was stifling, getting up to 44°C at one point.  The numerous inter hotel buses sat around with their diesel engines running to support the air conditioning causing more ecological damage and making it even hotter.  

Whilst the aviation industry is successful in a remarkable effort to keep emissions to sustainable levels we are still seen as bad boys Al Baker had said.  Ginsberg agreed and asked it airlines could put pressure on airports and typically hotels (suppliers) to go electric as soon as possible.   

Al Baker responded that this was a government responsibility and Walsh concurred.  See also in this week's BTN British-Irish EXPO.



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OUR READERS' FINEST WORDS (All times and dates are GMT)

All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

John Blay, Norwich

This is an interesting COMMENT column with the real meat at the end. Saigon some years back was the worst!

Jill Bright, Brighton

Spot on. Even here (and it's never that warm on the South Coast) we have the problem of coaches sitting around all day with their engines running. Speak to a driver and they are invariably rude!