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Qatar Airways urges more access to Canadian market

Many carriers fear Gulf-based superjumbos will drain their own hubs.

November 1, 2010 11:53 by

Qatar Airways’ chief executive called on Sunday for greater access for the fast expanding Gulf carrier to the Canadian market, saying the development of bilateral trade ties may depend on it.

“We have Canadian companies trying to sell us equipment. But trade is a two-way street. We will give them trade, in return we want to access their markets,” Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker told a conference in the capital, Doha.

The rapid expansion of Qatar Airways, Dubai’s Emirates , and Etihad of Abu Dhabi has unnerved older airlines and fuelled mutual accusations of protectionism. Many carriers fear Gulf-based superjumbos will drain their own hubs.

Canada’s military lost access this month to a military camp near Dubai, which it used to support troops in Afghanistan, after Ottawa refused to allow Emirates and Etihad to increase flights to Canada.

“They just want to throw peanuts at us. But the genie is out of the bottle. They will not be able to restrain our capacity,” Baker said.

On Saturday, Qatar Airways confirmed that it had carried an explosive package that was later seized in Dubai. The parcel had been flown from Yemen with a stop-over in the Qatari capital Doha, it said.

Without referring to the security scare over the explosive packages bound for the United States, Baker said security was a problem for all airlines .

“It is everybody’s problem, because we are all in the same boat. But we are overreacting sometimes by putting passengers through excessive inconvenience,” he said, citing the removal of belts, flat shoes and laptop computers as excessive.

Baker said he was less than impressed with security on internal U.S. flights recently.

“Quite frankly, I found it very lax. But you cannot make anything 100 percent. No matter how many checks you do, there will still be cracks. The only way to fill the cracks is to invest in technology.”

Baker said he expected more consolidation in the industry.

“There has been over the last 40 years a fashion to launch airlines. Then the recession came, and some folded. We are expecting more to fold. So there will be automatic and natural consolidation, without having to spend money on this,” he said.

“Air France , Lufthansa — they all want to protect their turf. But they do not have the capacity to grow. They are trying to blame us for their shortcomings. Instead they should fix their own inefficiencies.”

Qatar, the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, is building a new airport with the capacity to accommodate 50 million passengers per year.

Construction on the New Doha International Airport (NDIA) will be partially completed by October of next year, with total completion slated for February 2012, Bernardo Gogna, director of the NDIA, said at the conference.

Air Canada’s chief executive this year accused Emirates of wanting to “flood” Canadian skies with airline seats so it can scoop up travellers and divert them through Dubai.

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