Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker calls Australian government decision to block flights 'very unfair'

| 18.09,23. 12:37 AM |

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al

Baker calls Australian

government decision to block

flights 'very unfair'

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker says he was "very surprised" by Australia's decision, given his airline's work during the pandemic.(Reuters: Pascal Rossignol)

Qatar Airways has branded the Albanese government's decision to block additional flights to Australia "very unfair" after the airline helped get Australians home during the pandemic.

Federal Transport Minister Catherine King denied a request from the Gulf state carrier to double its 28 weekly services to Australia, amid Qantas opposition.

The airline's chief executive, Akbar Al Baker, broke his silence on Saturday, telling CNN he was "very surprised" the rights were blocked.

"We found it to be very unfair, our legitimate request to be not granted, especially at a time when we were so supportive of Australia," he said.

Some had praised Qatar for maintaining flights into and out of Australia during the pandemic, even when domestic carriers stopped flying.

"[We were] repatriating stranded citizens from around the world to and out of Australia, helping them receiving medical supplies and spare parts, et cetera, during the COVID period when the national carrier and their partners completely stopped operating in Australia," Mr Al Baker said.

"We were there for the people of Australia."

Analysts have said the extra Qatar Airways flights would have increased competition and lowered airfares, if its request had been granted.

Catherine King stands at lecturn in front of airport signage
Transport Minister Catherine King defends the government's decision to block extra Qatar Airways flights.(AAP: Lukas Coch)

Inquiry into decision begins this week

Mr Al Baker's comments come before a Senate committee this week holds an inquiry into why the additional flights were blocked.

Government Services Minister Bill Shorten said Ms King had to weigh up everyone's interests, not just a particular commercial operation sponsored by another government.

"Everyone obviously wants cheaper airfares, but I don't think that it's as simple as just saying, 'Well that's going to be accomplished overnight with giving the Qatari government what they want when they turn up'," he told Sky News on Sunday.

Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie, who will chair the Senate committee, has slammed Ms King for refusing to release documents detailing the government's decision.

"It is shocking that Transport Minister Catherine King waited until parliament rose to tell us that she will now not be disclosing advice from her department on why she blocked more Qatar Airways flights based on 'public interest immunity'," she said on Friday.

Ms King has previously offered a range of rationales behind the decision to decline Qatar's request, including invasive body searches conducted on Australian women at Doha's Hamad International Airport, reducing emissions and protecting the national interest.

(Votes: 0)

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