Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker blasted his critics during an address to the Aviation Club in London on 17 October, saying that the Gulf carriers should no longer be viewed by the legacy airlines as their biggest threat.

Al Baker said that he and his "neighbours across the Gulf" had "moved up a notch" following Qatar's deal to join Oneworld; Emirates' tie-up with Qantas; and Etihad's partnership with Air France-KLM.

"We can no longer be seen as enemy number one by the established players. We have matured enough to enter the big league," he said.

Al Baker added that he had "personally faced criticism" from "two particular European legacy carriers which have falsely accused Gulf carriers of using government money to subsidise our remarkable growth".

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AirSpace user APG Photography

Their criticism "shows lack of understanding of our business model", he said, adding: "This shows arrogance and ignorance of how we operate. Those who criticise with baseless arguments are afraid of the competitive threat we pose."

He said that while European airlines did not object to the rise of the Asian network carriers, they had a "problem" when the Gulf carriers began establishing strong hubs in Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. "The fast pace of development and expansion of these hubs have been viewed as anti-competitive, posing a huge threat to the European hubs," he continued.

Al Baker also took his critics to task over their complaints about state aid, saying: "Governments which are part or whole investors in businesses have a right to inject equity if they feel a noticeable long-term return. This is exactly what has happened in my country and with our neighbours.

"Many European carriers enjoyed decades of so-called state aid. While under government control, money poured into their businesses."

Al Baker claimed that even after European deregulation, government money was injected through indirect state subsidies. "Although Swiss does not belong to the EU, the $1.5 billion state aid in 2002 benefited owner Lufthansa," he said.

"Lufthansa has managed to widen its net across Europe over the years...and emerged as one of our adversaries, complaining they are losing money with the onslaught of 'unfair competition!'"

"It is not the Gulf carriers which make Lufthansa lose money, but more so its own incapabilities in the quest to operate profitably."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news