Born in Doha in 1962, Al Baker has been CEO of Qatar Airways since 1997. An Economics and Commerce graduate from Sydenham College of Economics & Commerce in Mumbai, Al Baker held several posts in the Qatar Civil Aviation Directorate before being tasked with leading Qatar Airways into the 21st Century. Mr. Al Baker also holds a private pilot’s license.
Akbar Al Baker attended St. Peter’s boarding school in Maharashtra, India. He later moved to Mumbai where he graduated in Economics and Commerce from Sydenham College of Economics & Commerce.
Al Baker’s career prior to taking over as CEO of Qatar is lacking in any detail. He was a civil servant with a number of posts within Qatar’s Civil Aviation Directorate, but what those posts were is unknown. He is also a previous chairman of the Qatar National Tourism Council
When Al Baker, took over the reins at Qatar Airways in 1997, it was a small regional airline operating only four aircraft on a handful of routes. 22 years later, with Al Baker’s steady hand guiding it, it has become one of the world’s most respected airlines, flying more than 200 aircraft and operating on more than 100 routes, a hugely impressive growth in two decades.
As group chief executive of Hamad International, Al Baker has also been the primary driving force behind the development of Hamad International Airport, which has been Qatar Airways’ base since 2014 and which has taken over from Doha Airport as the country’s international hub, officially opening on 30th April 2014. The vision of Al Baker and Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani is for Hamad International Airport to transform Qatar’s aviation sector. The airport complex spans a massive 8.5 square miles, and there are further plans to build an ‘airport city’ with offices, hotels, and more. There have been some criticisms that much of the design of Hamad International has been copied from other airports, particularly Singapore’s Changi Airport, but this is something Al Baker denies.
In 2015, Al Baker received the Legion of Honour from the then President of France, Francois Hollande, for his services to and leadership in the aviation industry.
He is known as an ambitious, uncompromising, and sometimes brutally forthright businessman. In 2017, he introduced the first ever double beds in business class and has a number of substantial orders in for new planes, though he is never shy of criticising manufacturers for delays or mistakes. Also in 2017, he was appointed as Chairman of the Board of Governors of IATA (International Air Transport Association) and was also named as ‘Aviation Executive of the Year’.
As well as numerous private business interests, Mr. Al Bajer is a member of the Executive Committee of the Arab Air Carriers Organisation and non-executive Director of Heathrow Airport Holdings (HAH) which runs Heathrow Airport in the UK.
In addition to being CEO of Qatar Airways, he also serves in the same capacity for a number of the airline’s offshoots and subsidiaries, including Qatar Executive (their private jet service), Qatar Aviation Services, Qatar Aircraft Catering Company, Qatar Distribution Company, Qatar Duty Free, and Internal Media Services, as well as a number of other companies.
While Al Baker can come across as aloof and unapproachable, his passion for his work and his determination to make Qatar Airways the best in the world is undeniable. An aviation journalist who flew with him on Qatar Airways’ inaugural commercial A350 flight from Doha to Frankfurt noted with some amusement that Al Baker changed into pyjamas almost as soon as he had boarded and that he happily mixed with passengers in the galley. At one point, a group were standing around him in a circle when the seatbelt sign came on. The journalist, who was on the outer limits of the circle, was approached by a stewardess who told him to take his seat. On hearing this, Al Baker, still in pyjamas, looked over and said: “It is okay, I am crew and it is safe, you can stay. We will be seated in a minute.”