Akbar al-Baker says he was surprised by the rejection as the airline has been “so supportive of Australia” during the pandemic.
The Australian government’s decision to block Qatar Airways’ request for additional flights to Australia was “very unfair,” the airline’s CEO Akbar al-Baker told CNN in an interview.
“We felt it was very unfair [for] Our legitimate request was rejected, especially at a time when we were so supportive of Australia,” al-Baker said on Sunday, adding that he was “very surprised” by the decision.
“[We were] We are repatriating their stranded citizens from around the world to and from Australia and helping them receive medical supplies, spare parts, etc. during the COVID-19 period,” al-Baker said. “The national airline and its partners have completely suspended operations in Australia. We were there for the people of Australia.”
The Doha-based airline had applied to add an additional 21 flights to Australia’s major airports. But Australian Transport Minister Catherine King formally rejected her offer to add flights to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in July, saying the proposal was not in Australia’s interests.
During the pandemic, Qatar Airways flights to Australia have continued, carrying only 20 people per flight, while flights from Qantas, Australia’s national airline, have been suspended.
“I always hope that the government will listen to our case very carefully and then make a decision,” said the Qatar Airways CEO, adding that it was difficult for him to comment as there is currently a parliamentary inquiry by the Australian Parliament The government’s decision on Qatar Airways is underway to investigate.
“We have full confidence in the government, the Senate and the Parliament,” al-Baker said.
Earlier this week, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said he was not consulted when the country’s transport minister decided to block Qatar Airways’ application.
Last week, Transport Minister King said the “context” behind her decision not to grant Qatar Airways further flights was related to invasive strip searches on a group of Australian women at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar.
In October 2020, more than a dozen female passengers in Qatar were subjected to “invasive” and “humiliating” internal examinations after a newborn baby was found abandoned at the airport.
King’s decision came under intense political scrutiny and was accused of protecting Qantas, whose former chief executive Alan Joyce claimed that granting extra capacity to Qatar would “distort” the local aviation market.
The airline, which has admitted lobbying against Qatar Airways’ bid, has also faced criticism over a series of recent controversies, including allegations that it sold about 8,000 tickets on flights it knew had already been canceled were.
Public anger at the Australian airline, which controls more than 60 percent of the domestic market, culminated in Joyce’s resignation.
The leader of the National Party of Australia and chair of the government inquiry into the decision, Bridget McKenzie, openly accused the government of protectionism.
“I believe they are running a protection racket for Qantas,” McKenzie told Sky News.
Source : www.aljazeera.com