Akbar Al Baker, the outspoken chief executive officer who built Qatar Airways into one of the world’s premier airlines, plans to step down in November after more than a quarter century in the role, according to people familiar with the matter.
The CEO told staff in a memo he will leave November 5, the people said, seeking anonymity because the decision hasn’t been announced.
“It has been an incredible privilege to lead such an exceptional global team, & the honour of a lifetime to serve my country,” the CEO said in the memo, according to aviation consultant Alex Macheras, who posted the excerpt earlier on X.
A Qatar Airways official had no immediate comment. Badr Al Meer, the chief operating officer of Doha Hamad International Airport, will replace Al Baker as CEO, according to Macheras.
Al Baker joined what was then a three-year-old regional carrier in 1997 and built it into a long-distance powerhouse. Qatar Airways now flies from its base in Doha to more than 150 destinations, from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand.
Al Baker’s devotion to delivering a premium experience has won plaudits from customers — Qatar has been ranked first or second in Airline of the Year by consulting firm Skytrax since 2011 — but led to clashes with manufacturers Airbus SE and Boeing Co. Most recently, Al Baker went to court with Airbus over an issue with flaking paint on wide-body A350 jets. The matter was settled in February this year, after a tense standoff which saw Al Baker turn to Boeing for jets after Airbus cancelled some orders.
Al Baker’s retirement has been anticipated for several years but he has always said he would step down when he was asked to.