Akbar al Baker, born in Doha in 1962, has been head of state-owned Qatar Airlines since 1997. As a child he moved to India, his mother’s homeland, and completed his studies in economics in Bombay. He then worked in the Qatar Aviation Authority. Under his leadership, Qatar Airways has grown from five to nearly 250 aircraft in 25 years. In addition to the airline, al Baker also manages Hamad Airport in Doha and service companies from duty free shops to the advertising subsidiary – and likes to document this by showing business partners a small stack of his various business cards as a greeting.
At Qatar Airways, which he usually calls “my airline”, the manager with the pilot’s license is extremely demanding because, according to reports, he takes care of every detail internally almost around the clock. The aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing appreciate his willingness to take risks because he is almost always the first to order new models in large numbers. At the same time, they fear deliveries because he has aircraft reworked because of the smallest deviations, for example if, in his opinion, the colors of the interior do not correspond to the templates.
The public appearances referred to in the industry as “Akbar moments” are legendary. He called US airlines “crap” (shit), partly because passengers were “served by grandmothers” while “his flight attendants” were on average 26 years old. He later had to apologize for the statement as well as for the sentence: “Of course, an airline must be managed by one man, because it is a very challenging position”.