Qatar Airways: Who is new CEO and what are his priorities?

Following the stepdown of longtime CEO Akbar Al Baker, Badr Al-Meer takes the helm of Qatar Airways – so what does he offer and what are his priorities?

Taking the top job at one of the world’s leading airlines is challenge enough – but imagine stepping into the corporate shoes of a leadership legend, an industry pioneer who has changed the face of aviation.

That is the reality facing Engr. Badr Mohammed Al-Meer, who took the helm of Qatar Airways on November 5, following the stepdown last month of His Excellency Akbar Al Baker after nearly three decades in the job.

Al Baker, who hold one of the longest leadership reigns in the world of aviation, has led the state-owned airline since its founding in 1997 and is credited with transforming Qatar into one of the world’s greatest international airlines – from a fleet of just five planes in 1996 to 284 planes serving 160 destinations today and 43,000 employees.

Under his leadership. Qatar Airways has secured the prestigious Skytrax ‘World’s Best Airline’ award a staggering seven times with revenue rising 45% in FY22/23 to US$w1 billion and passenger revenue rising by 100% annually.

His Excellency Akbar Al Baker holds one of the longest leadership reigns in the world of aviation,

These are big numbers to maintain, and grow, not to mention the many other challenges facing aviation, from climate change to geopolitics.

But Al-Meer has form and is himself no stranger to the world of aviation, nor to transformation.  

An engineer, Al-Meer’s career has been forged over two decades pioneering multi-billion-dollar aviation, construction, and real estate development projects.

As Chief Operating Officer at Hamad international Airport for nearly a decade, Al-Meer adeptly guided the airport through major milestones and unprecedented challenges including the pandemic and was instrumental in transforming the airport into a global hub.

The airport has been the hub of Qatar Airways since 2014 and is owned and operated by Qatar Airways Group.

As COO since 2014, Al-Meer worked closely with Al Baker on the ambitious US$2.7 billion expansion and oversaw the launch of the state-of-the-art airport and the historic FIFA World Cup, which drew more than a million visitors.

The airport witnessed a surge in passenger traffic in 2022, with a YoY increase of 101% welcoming more than 35 million passengers – and a 33.5% increase in passenger traffic in the first half of 2023.

His leadership has also played an instrumental role in the airport being named by Skytrax as the ‘World’s Best Airport’ in 2021 and 2022 – and this year, as the second-best in the world and ‘Best in the Middle East’ for the ninth consecutive year.

Taking Qatar Airways into a new era

“For the past 10 years, I have dedicated my career to making an impact at Qatar Airways Group and am looking forward to leading our national carrier into a new era – one in which a culture of trust and empowerment will be the building blocks of our shared success.”

Al-Meer has promised to continue Al Baker’s legacy and “invest in the priorities and concerns of [his] generation” as he tackles one of the region’s biggest aviation jobs.

He says he will place a renewed focus on harnessing emerging technology, developing and implementing sustainable aviation solutions, and further improving “our customer experience while simultaneously continuing the aggressive growth and world-class service we have always offered”.

Under Al-Meer’s new leadership, Qatar Airways is set to resume services to various destinations not served since the pandemic, including Osaka, Penang, and Venice – and he will also oversee the delivery of a significant number of aircraft, from the Boeing 737 MAX 10 to the 777-9 and Airbus A350-1000.

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