Qatar Airways’ iconic boss, His Excellency Mr Akbar Al Baker, is stepping down after 27 years at the helm of the national carrier.

Having taken over the top job in 1997, in just 20 years Mr Al Baker is credited with turning Qatar Airways from a small regional carrier into a multi-award-winning global brand voted the World’s Best Airline a record-breaking seven times. Today, Qatar Airways flies one of the youngest, most sustainable and state-of-the-art fleets in the skies serving over 130 destinations across six continents. In July this year, Qatar Airways Group, which also manages the equally acclaimed Hamad International Airport, a pet project of Mr Al Baker, reported a USD1.2 billion profit with revenue of USD20.9 billion.

His Excellency’s resignation, for which no explanation has been given, is effective November 5, and he will be succeeded by Engr. Badr Mohammed Al-Meer as Group Chief Executive for Qatar Airways. Mr Al-Meer is currently Chief Operating Officer of Hamad International Airport and is said to have been instrumental in the facility’s growth, expansion and success since he took over in 2014.

Qatar Airways is one of the most recognisable and trusted brands globally, synonymous with customer service quality and the highest of standards and much lauded for its part in delivering the successful FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

Though one of the most outspoken and sometimes controversial figures in the airline industry, Mr Al Baker is also widely known for his ambition and passion for innovation. In March 2017 he introduced the award-winning Qsuite featuring the first ever double bed available in business class.

In August the same year, he was announced as the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the prestigious global aviation industry body, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which came into effect in June 2018 for a period of one year. And, in November 2017, he was proudly named ‘Aviation Executive of the Year’ by the CAPA Centre for Aviation in recognition of his global influence and visionary approach to the airline industry.

Whether there will be changes at the national carrier following his departure remains to be seen but there can be no doubt that Qatar Airways and the airline industry as a whole is bidding farewell to a man who has been a force to be reckoned with. ✤