Qatar Airways said it is open to bid for divestment-bound Air India or pick up a stake in IndiGo once the dispute between its founder promoters is sorted out. With a right Indian partner and “flexible” labour conditions for AI selloff, Qatar Airways group chief executive Akbar Al Baker said he does not see “any reason why AI cannot become the best airline in the world (again).”
However, he also warns that a strong investor for AI will mean labour unions massively hiking their demands. Simultaneously, the cash-rich aviation baron says he remains very keen on starting a new airline in India. To IndiGo’s warring founder-promoter, his advice was not to “be ungrateful to have an opportunity to be a stakeholder in the largest Indian carrier from being an employee of (another) airline” - a clear reference to Rakesh Gangwal.
Qatar has been trying to get more flying rights from India but the Modi government in the last 5.5 years has not hiked bi-laterals of foreign countries with big presence in Indian skies like Dubai, Singapore and Qatar. Due to this, Qatar Airways has not been able to add flights to and from India and is now looking at inorganic ways to do so.
“My interest in IndiGo has always been very strong. It has been a solid airline and I hope it stays that way. We have lot of confidence in (Rahul) Bhatia’s capabilities to own and run this company. We would be very keen (to pick up a stake) in the future (once Bhatia-Gangwal dispute is resolved),” Al Baker said.
Asked if he has a word of advice for IndiGo’s warring founder-partners, he said: “It is very sad (they) are now having argument on trivial issues..… not healthy for the airline…. It is not my business to comment on this but I know the history of how one shareholder invited the other shareholder to become his partner. Then to have this disagreement after benefiting so much from this performance of IndiGo (is sad).”