Akbar Al Baker, chief executive of Qatar Airways, has never shied away from a fight.
When Delta, United and American Airlines accused the Doha-based carrier in 2016 of competing unfairly by accepting subsidies from its oil-rich government owners, Al Baker responded by promising to add dozens of new U.S. destinations.
The new destinations included Atlanta, the biggest hub for Delta Air Lines.
“I like to rub a little salt on the wound of Delta when I announce these flights,” Al Baker joked at a news conference.
Al Baker remains defiant. Last week, he announced that Qatar Airways plans to add 16 international destinations and expand service to eight other cities in response to a blockade launched this summer by several Middle Eastern countries.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt accused the country of Qatar of harboring, funding and championing Islamist terrorists. The countries cut air, sea and land links with Qatar, among other punitive measures.
During a news conference, Al Baker dismissed suggestions that the blockade will hurt his carrier.
“These destinations are not the whole world,” he said in response to a reporter’s question about access to neighboring countries. “There are so many other nice places in the world. So, we have not lost anything.”
Over the next two years, he said Qatar will add new flights to airports in Germany, London, Portugal, Estonia, Malta, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Turkey, Greece and Spain.
“We are very defiant, and Qatar Airways will keep on expanding and keep on raising the flag for my country all over the globe,” Al Baker said.
By adding these routes, Al Baker’s carrier is flying to some destinations already served by airlines from the blockade countries, including Etihad Airways and Emirates Airline, both based in the United Arab Emirates.