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Qatar Airways makes small net loss in the last financial year due to high oil prices

Airline carried 14.3 million passengers last financial year

Gulf News

Doha: Qatar Airways made a small loss last year because of high fuel costs. The airline posted a small net loss in the 2011/12 financial year that ended March 31, because of high oil prices, compared with a profit the year before, Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker said on Monday. He didn’t give further details.

Qatar Airways expects to fly close to 17 million passengers in 2012/2013, up from 14.5 million the year before, he said.

New airport delayed

The opening of the first phase of Doha’s new airport, valued at $11 billion (Dh40.4 billion), has been delayed to around June next year, according to Al Baker, after a major contractor’s contract was terminated because they fell behind schedule.

The airport was originally due to open this December.

Al Baker declined to give the name of the new contractor, but said it would be responsible for construction of all 18 airport lounges. The planned airport is to be opened in three phases and completed by 2015, with eventual capacity to accommodate 50 million passengers.

He further said Qatar Airways will study last week’s decision by the Indian government to allow foreign airlines to invest in its struggling aviation sector.

Days ago, India lifted foreign ownership restrictions in its aviation sector, allowing overseas airlines to buy up to a 49 per cent stake in domestic carriers. Gulf airlines have long been touted as potential investors in India where a lack of international investment has stunted growth, in spite of huge growth opportunities.

Investment hurdle

Al Baker said bureaucracy remained a hurdle for investment there and more time was needed to study the details of the new law.

He further dismissed claims of alliance talks with British Airways or any other airline after reports earlier this month said BA parent International Airlines Group (IAG) had held discussions with Qatar about a partnership focused on Asia.

Al Baker further admitted it was embroiled in a spat with Boeing Co over the quality of cabins onboard its new 787 Dreamliner. He said the problem was “technical”, but there were also issues with the quality of the cabin in Boeing’s much-delayed lightweight fuel-efficient jet that promises passengers more comfort and space than other aircraft.

“Qatar Airways is very meticulous about our cabins and we will not take our cabin even if there is just a scratch,” Al Baker told reporters in Doha Monday.

Meanwhile, as a customer, Al Baker said he was in favour of a potential $45 billion merger between Europe’s EADS and BAE Systems to form the world’s biggest aerospace and defence company. The firms revealed last week that they were in talks on a merger.

“It will enhance their product, and it is good for an airline to have two major contributors to the Airbus aircraft getting together as one company. This would bring efficiency and reduce the cost of the product. Of course I’m in favour of it,” he said.

[CREDIT: Zawya Dow Jones/Reuters]