Heathrow Airport Board member, Akbar Al Baker, says Heathrow should have 24 hour flights
One of the Board members of Heathrow Airport is Akbar Al Baker, who is the CEO of Qatar Airways and led the development of the new Doha airport. He is on the Board because Qatar Holdings bought a 20% stake in Heathrow in 2012. He has caused a storm of protest after claiming, with stunning insensitivity and demonstating a woeful lack of understanding of British democracy, that Heathrow should have 24 hour flights – ignoring the well-being of those overflown. The benefit would be that his companies would be more profitable. Akbar Al Baker said Britons make an “excessive” fuss about noise levels from aircraft flying over their homes” and home owners living under flight paths “wouldn’t even hear the aircraft” after a while.” He appears not to understand that in Europe, unpopular and damaging major developments cannot just be steamrollered through, as they perhaps can be in the Gulf States. Mr Al Baker thinks European airports should open 24 hours a day if they want to compete with the emerging Gulf hubs in Dubai and Doha. Though rapidly denied by Heathrow, which distanced itself from Mr Al Baker’s comments, it is indicative of a way of thought which people may fear is prevalent on the Heathrow board.
Heathrow noise complainers being ‘fussy’ claims board member
Qatar airways chief Akbar Al Baker, who is on the board of Heathrow, says European airports should open 24 hours a day
Britons make an “excessive” fuss about noise levels from aircraft flying over their homes, a board member of Heathrow Airport has claimed.
Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker, who is also on the board of Heathrow,[and lead the development of the new airport in Doha) said European airports should open 24 hours a day if they want to compete with the emerging Gulf hubs in Dubai and Doha, which are claiming a growing slice of international passenger traffic.
Home owners living under flight paths “wouldn’t even hear the aircraft” after a while, the outspoken airline chief suggested.
Al Baker, who joined Heathrow’s board after Qatar Holding bought a 20pc stake in the west London airport in 2012, was speaking ahead of his airline’s move on May 27 to Doha’s new $17bn (£10.1bn) airport, Hamad International, which will be able to handle 50m passengers a year when it is completed in full in two-and-a-half years’ time.
The airline chief suggested that the Queen should be making the biggest fuss about aviation noise in London as Windsor Castle is “exactly below” the flight path of one of Heathrow’s runways.
Al Baker said European airlines are unable to grow as quickly as Gulf carriers due to the restrictions placed on them around night flights. Residents in the Gulf “are not making so much fuss” about aircraft noise as they do in Europe, he said, allowing carriers such as Qatar to make better use of their aircraft.
“If you live under the flight path of an aeroplane, I assure you that over a period of time you wouldn’t even hear the aircraft passing over your house,” he said.
“In addition to that, today’s aeroplanes are so efficient vis-à-vis the noise emissions that as soon as the aeroplane is out of the airport perimeter you would hardly hear them.”
In relation to Britain’s long-running debate over where to build new runways, Al Baker said national interests should be taken into account, not just residents’ gripes about noise levels.
“I know that people require freedom but I think this is too excessive,” he said. “Sometimes national interests must be considered also. If you don’t increase the airport size at Heathrow or Gatwick you will be overtaken by other airports which will then connect to your country by high-speed train,” he said, implying Heathrow will lose further business to rival European hub airports such as Paris and Frankfurt.
His comments provoked an angry response from anti-Heathrow expansion group, HACAN (Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise). John Stewart, its chairman, said: “Mr Akbar Al Baker should meet some of our members next time he is in London. They are in despair about the flights constantly going over their homes. And they certainly don’t get used to night flights.
“Mr Akbar Al Baker is flying in the face of all known evidence to suggest that noise won’t be a problem outside the airport perimeter fence any time soon.”
Dubai International Airport overtook Heathrow for the first time in January and February in terms of monthly passenger traffic. Aviation chiefs warn the expanding hub airports in the Gulf will suck even further business away from London.
Some 85pc of passengers that pass through Doha’s current airport, which will be closed and part of the ground used for one of the Qatar World Cup 2022 stadiums, are on transfer from flights originating in regions such as Asia.
The city expects to capture an even greater slice of the global aviation market once Hamad International is fully operational. A handful of carriers already operate from the site, which has a main terminal the size of 50 football pitches, plus facilities such as a swimming pool and squash courts.
Al Baker is well known in the airline industry for his forthright comments. Speaking to journalists in Doha on Sunday after the launch of Qatar Airways’ all-business class flight from London Heathrow, he defended his airline’s policy of banning its female cabin crew from getting married in the first five years of their employment.
He said cabin crew know what they sign up to when they join the airline, which has to invest a lot of money in recruiting cabin staff from beyond Qatar’s borders and training them.
“We used to allow this and a lot of people started to get married and then two to three months later they were pregnant so we were losing a lot of trained people that we had then to stop them flying,” he said. “We had to put a stop to this. But after five years they can get married to anybody they want.”
Heathrow airport’s website says of their Board Member:
“Akbar Al Baker, Non-Executive Director
Akbar Al Baker was appointed a Non-Executive Director in January 2013. He has been the Chief Executive Officer of Qatar Airways since 1997. He is also leading the development of the multi-billion dollar Hamad International Airport (formerly known under the project name New Doha International Airport), which is scheduled to open in phases from April 2013.
Mr. Al Baker is a graduate of Commerce and Economics and holds a private pilot licence. He is also CEO of several divisions of Qatar’s national airline – being Qatar Airways Holidays, Qatar Aviation Services, Qatar Duty Free Company, Doha International Airport, Qatar Distribution Company, Qatar Executive, Oryx Rotana Hotel and Qatar Aircraft Catering Company”
Article from the New York Times about democracy in Qatar:
Heathrow’s second biggest shareholder, Akbar Al-Baker, calls for flights 24-hours a day
21st May 2014 i
Akbar Al-Baker is the head of Qatar Airways
A Heathrow director has told residents living under the flight path, “you will not even hear the aircraft passing over your house” as he called for the capital’s biggest airport to fly 24 hours a day.
Akbar Al-Baker, the head of Qatar Airways who sits on Heathrow’s executive board and represents the Gulf state’s sovereign wealth fund, made the comments at a new flight launch event this week.
His company is the second biggest shareholder in the airport with a 20 per cent stake.
He said: “The thing that is impending Europe’s growth is that airports are locked up from 11pm until 5.30am, which is a very, very critical time for east-west transfer.
“If you live under the flight path of an airport, I assure you, over a period of time you will not even hear the aircraft passing over your house.”
The comments were met with concern from anti-expansion protesters.
John Stewart, chairman of Hacan, said: “He has no idea what it is like to live under the Heathrow flight path.
“He has no evidence to say the noise will only be an issue within the airport itself.
“Our other concern is that this man is not only a director of Heathrow but his company is the second biggest shareholder in it.”
But the west London airport distanced itself from the comments and said it had never argued for round-the-clock flying.
Sir Nigel Rudd, chairman of Heathrow, said: “Mr Al-Baker’s views are his own and do not represent the views or policy of the Heathrow board or executive committee.
“We recognise that adding the flights Britain needs for growth must come hand in hand with reducing aircraft noise for residents.
“Round the clock flying from London is not an option. We take the concerns of local communities very seriously and have never argued for 24-hour flying.”
Campaigners slammed the airport and said they rushed out comments due to embarrassment caused by Mr Al-Baker’s claims.
Heathrow chairman hushes hubbub over 24/7 airport
Sir Nigel Rudd has distanced himself from fellow Heathrow board member Akbar al-Baker’s remarks that Britons make an “excessive” fuss about noise.
Akbar Al-Baker, the colourful chief of Qatar Airways, is flying solo with his blue-sky thinking for the UK’s transport hubs.
Diary is still waiting for a response from HM the Queen, whose Windsor Castle address sits “exactly below” the flight path of one of Heathrow’s runways.
But, in the meantime, Heathrow chairman Sir Nigel Rudd has added to the turbulence by stressing that Mr al-Baker’s views are very much “his own”, and “do not represent the views or policy of the Heathrow board or executive committee”. “Round the clock flying from London is not an option,” Sir Nigel tells Diary.
Even Boris Johnson’s chief aviation adviser, Daniel Moylan, pondered yesterday whether Qatar Airways’ commercial interests are “entirely congruent with Britain’s national interest”.
But al-Baker doesn’t need to fear the executive ejector button just yet. Given that his Qatari airline owns 20pc of Heathrow, Diary suspects he will be on the board for the long haul.
Some of the comments under the Telegraph article:
Some along the lines of this one below (stunning in its self interest and ignorance ):
“This is one reason why all the best airports are in Asia, and the West is being left behind when it comes to investment. A few hundred NIMBYs think they are more important than tens of millions of people using the airport, present and future, and the whole economy. The term ‘greater good’ means nothing to these selfish people. They can sell and move somewhere else if the noise bothers them.”
This one is a bit extreme, but shows how the noise makes some people really desperate:
“I lived in Kew in the very early seventies and lost so much sleep my mind went quite ragged. Planes were flying all through the night. Eventually, I lost my rag and I phoned the control tower at Heathrow and asked them to train their binoculars due east. When they said they were looking, I released a marine flare. Suddenly, all flights stopped and I was able to catch up on my sleep. The planes were at 2-3000 feet and the flare was 900 feet so no real danger.”
“I suggest he tries living under the flight path in West London before making such fatuous remarks.”
“!Britons make an “excessive” fuss about noise levels from aircraft flying over their homes, a board member of Heathrow Airport has claimed”.
And where precisely does this particular board member live?”
“Mr Al Baker is the particularly unpleasant CEO of the highly subsidised Qatar Airways (by Qatari government). He exemplifies everything that is disagreeable about Company CEOs. His new Doha airport has had their runways built on reclaimed land several km into the sea, east of the current runway, to avoid aircraft flying over the exclusive West Bay area of Doha, which is what they currently do.
So why doesn’t he promote a new airport (Boris Island) built to the east of London?”
….And I forgot to add – summer heat, no air conditioning, bed room windows wide open – sleep impossible.”
“Heathrow isn’t full; current flights run at around 70% seat occupancy. Many airlines are actually using smaller planes to keep their slots. We really need people from the north and Midlands to use their local airports and steer clear of Heathrow, and this will support local economies, and help take some of the pressure off Heathrow.”
“So says the man from the country where construction workers die every day from thirst and heat exhaustion and maids are routinely raped and murdered, where gay people are stoned to death and women having affairs (but not men) too. Qatar’s mind and soul is in the dark ages. Clearly Al Baker’s “let them eat cake” sentiments about not caring for people’s well being, living under a flight path, or even considering what sleep deprivation does to one’s health, demonstrates the typical arrogance and ignorance one would expect from a citizen of Qatar! “
“One thing we know for sure is that this ‘camel rider’ does not live under the flight path! I’m trying to be polite and prevent myself from landing in jail for what I would like to call this Arab person for his stupidity! How did he get a position on the board of Heathrow Airport? Oh of course same story as the choice of Qatar for a football match!”
“Do you have the faintest idea just how wide the noise footprint of Heathrow is – do you? I live some 17 miles away from Heathrow in a straight line and the noise from aircraft is still significant. I used to live double that distance away in Berkshire and was still affected by the noise. Just how much noise pollution of other people’s lives do you find acceptable?”
“Well someone should point out to Mr Al Baker that we live in a democracy. The concept that mere residents have a right to express their opinion and dissent from his desire to make their lives hell may shock him, but that’s just how it goes. He needn’t worry, because money always has the loudest voice, and he’ll doubtless get what he wants in the end, but if he wants to play in Britain, he needs to learn our rules.”
“No – you live in a house twenty or thirty miles away from the airport and are stillaffected by noise pollution. And not everyone has the money simply to up sticks and move away. Lucky you if you are in a position where you can do exactly as you please but a little bit of empathy from you for the hundreds of thousands of people who do not enjoy your opportunities and apparent freedom of movement would be most welcome.”
“This c***** should not serve on the board of Heathrow, a British utility. There should be a political storm about his comments – write to your MP.