Brand-new Air Italy 737 MAX 8 looking sharp – Photo: Air Italy
This past Friday, Air Italy received their first 737 MAX 8 aircraft at a delivery ceremony at Paine Field in Everett, WA. Dignitaries from Air Italy were joined by his Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, Group CEO for Qatar Airways. In July of 2016, Qatar Airways agreed to purchase a 49% stake in the airline (known previously as Meridiana), with the brand being re-launched as Air Italy in March 2018. As with any event involving Mr. Al Baker, this was a fancy affair, and included a few priceless soundbites.
When the Air Italy brand launched earlier this year, they announced their goal to disrupt the Italian market, and create a “credible alternative” for Italians. From their home base of Milan–Malpensa Airport, Air Italy intends to offer both short- and long-haul routes. The airline will shortly be launching flights to the United States, with a daily service to New York (begins 6/1) and four-times-per-week service to Miami (starts 6/8). The next planned long-haul destinations for Air Italy are Bangkok and Mumbai, with service start dates yet to be announced.
At the Qatar press conference on January 12, 2016 in Beverly Hills, with LAWA Director Deborah Flint, His Excellency GCEO Akbar Al Baker, and Qatar’s VP for the Americas Gunther Saurwein (L-R) – Photo: John Nguyen | AirlineReporter
Qatar Airways held a press conference on Tuesday to highlight the carrier’s entry into the Los Angeles market, with His Excellency, Qatar Group CEO Akbar Al Baker, providing his insights into the new service, as well has having some choice words regarding what he views as an unwarranted attack on his airline by the three big US-based carriers. AirlineReporter was on hand to live-tweet the event, and Al Baker did not disappoint.
One day I’ll have the guts to ask for a photo with him, as I may be his biggest fan – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
Look, I love His Excellency Akbar Al Baker, the CEO of Qatar Airways. If he’s doing an event and I’m free, I’ll go see him. Thing is, usually someone else is paying when he’s involved. I am not saying that derisively or sarcastically. Most of the time when I see him, Qatar Airways has provided me with the tickets out of their extreme generosity.
One time it was Airbus and Qatar Airways in a joint venture, and it is hard to say no to that. Can’t appreciate it enough, but that said, a sedate press conference across the country isn’t exactly what Qatar Airways gathers people for on their dime. Even more so when most of the press contingent is based in DC anyway.
Alaska Airlines 737-900ER at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport – Photo: Alaska
So, being the odd person that I am, I needed to find another reason to go to DC along with the press conference to justify the expense. I didn’t need to qualify for my AAdvantage account, since I already had nearly double-Executive Platinum planned for the year. There are times when all this goes out the window and one doesn’t need to really find an excuse to fly somewhere. But I just felt like I needed a second reason and I found it.
I am a huge fan of celebrity chef and Hannibal menu designer José Andreas. I’ve eaten at é, multiple Jaleos, Minibar, and, best of all, China Poblano. When I found out that José’s next restaurant was China Chilcano in DC…boom — reason established.
Cargolux Boeing 747-8F
Boeing was set to deliver their first 747-8F to Cargolux on September 19th, but at the last minute, the Luxembourg-based cargo company put the deal on hold and the delivery was postponed. Both Boeing and Cargolux kept quiet and rumors started about the reasoning behind this odd business maneuver. According to Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, who has a 35% stake in Cargolux, the issues stem from the 747-8F being 2.7% less fuel efficient than advertised. Al Baker stated that the issues causing the airline to back out of accepting delivery are related to GE, who built the engines on the 747-8F, and not Boeing. At this point, Cargolux is expected to take ownership of their first 747-8F on October 12th, pending the airlines board approving during their meeting on October 7th.
During a Boeing 777 delivery event for Qatar Airways, Al Baker was asked about Cargolux and their handling of the situation. “Unfortunately, the management of Cargolux did not take the action they should have taken during the process of the aircraft acceptance,” Al-Baker stated according to Bloomberg. “As we sit on the board of Cargolux, we have full right to object if we find something is not fair as far as Cargolux is concerned.”
One of the loudest rumors about this deal was that Qatar Airways was holding Cargolux’s 747-8F hostage for a better compensation deal on their 787 Dreamliners. However, Al Baker clearly stated that the Cargolux 747-8F delay has nothing to do with compensation for the 787 Dreamliner. “The issue really with this aircraft has nothing to do with Boeing. It has to do with an issue that we had with the engine manufacturer,” Al Baker said according to the Seattle PI. “This issue has been resolved” subject to board approval.
GE has already announced that they are working on a Performance Improvement Package (PIP) for the the GEnx-2B engine found on the 747-8. The package is not slated to be ready until mid-2013.
Even with all the issues that Qatar and Cargolux have recently had with Boeing, according to ArabianBusiness.com, Al-Baker described his relationship with Boeing as strong, “despite a few hiccups along the way.” At this point, it is not certain what the delivery celebration will entail and Boeing is waiting until after the October 7th board meeting to announce any plans.