Qatar Airways chief urges Africa to open its skies

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The chief of Qatar Airways on Tuesday slammed Africa’s closed door policy on outside airlines, urging states to open up the continent’s skies.

The Gulf carrier’s chief executive Akbar al-Baker said Africa had huge potential and was the world’s most under-served region due to the “impediment” put in place by most governments.

“I think it is very important that the authorities revisit this” closed door policy, Baker told a media briefing at the International Air Transport Association’s annual meeting.

He suggested that aviation is a sector that governments had to “review in order for them to benefit with the kind of help” received from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

“I think they should also advise the governments that with all this aid coming, you also need to have a sustainable project and that is to allow airlines to come,” he added.

This was in order for the airlines to bring more people, jobs and business opportunities, he said.

Liberalisation has long been a challenge in Africa where local markets have been shielded from competitors, including other carriers on the continent.

“The dominant airlines here have huge influence over their governments and these airlines are providing distorted information to the governments,” said Baker.

He cited an example where landing permission had been denied by an unnamed African country after flights were sold.

“This was influenced by the national carrier because they are worried that their inefficiencies will be exposed when they have more competition put on their doorstep,” Baker said at the end of the organization’s two-day meeting.

According to IATA, many governments have denied access to African competitors over fears of dominance, while give limited rights to non-African airlines.

Qatar will host the industry body’s next meeting.

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