Qatar better than SIA, says its chief

SINGAPORE - Qatar Airways' outspoken chief Akbar Al Baker did not mince his words when asked to rate his airline.

It is "most definitely" better than Singapore Airlines (SIA), he said, warning that the gap will only get wider when Qatar unveils its new Airbus 380 cabin this year.

"I don't think that there is any airline operating into Singapore, including Singapore Airlines, that offers this (Qatar's) high standard of product," he said in an interview on Wednesday with The Straits Times in the business-class cabin of Qatar Airways' Boeing 787, now on display at the Singapore Airshow.

From flying the most modern aircraft to offering top-end in-flight products at attractive fares, Qatar Airways provides "the best value for money", he said.

The Doha-based carrier is one of the first airlines in the world to fly the B-787, and will be the first to operate the Airbus 350, which it expects to take delivery of in November or December.

Singapore is a key market for Qatar Airways, which flies twice a day between Doha and Singapore, he pointed out.

To reflect this, the airline, which has nine B-787s in its fleet, will start flying the aircraft to Changi Airport from March 31.

Singapore will be the first of the airline's South-east Asian destinations to receive the aircraft.

"It is normal that when there is an important destination, we fly the most modern aircraft to showcase what Qatar Airways has," he said.

As airlines compete for passengers and yields, many are trying to outdo each other by offering the latest in-flight products, including the best seats, movies and cuisine.

Expanding route networks to provide customers with access to as many destinations as possible is also key, industry players said.

SIA, for instance, has signed deals with a growing number of carriers to allow it to offer customers connecting flights operated by its partners.

SIA, which has a stake in Virgin Australia, also has a deal with Indian conglomerate Tata to set up a joint-venture carrier in New Delhi. Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways has also bought into several other carriers.

But Qatar Airways prefers not to buy stakes in other carriers. Instead, it recently became the first of the three big Gulf carriers, which include Emirates and Etihad, to join the global airline grouping dubbed oneworld, which includes British Airways and American Airlines.

Mr Akbar, who has been Qatar Airways CEO since 1997, said: "We feel that joining a larger alliance serves the same purpose without those huge investments."

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