Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker recently revealed that he was interested in bidding for flag carrier Air India during its previous divestment attempt. Qatar Airways reached out to the Tata Group to partner up for the deal, but Tata was not interested at the time. The Doha-based carrier views India as an important market and has been trying to make inroads through airline investments.
Qatar Airways has been considering buying a stake of an Indian airline for a few years now as it struggles to get permission to expand routes. Photo: Getty ImagesPotential bidder
According to the Times of India, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker recently said that he was considering a serious bid for Air India during the previous privatization attempt in 2018. Mr. Al Baker then reached out to the Tata Group for a partnership, an Indian conglomerate and the founders of Air India.
However, notably, chairman Ratan Tata turned down the offer, citing the group’s other airline investments. During an interview, the Qatar Airways chief said,
“About four years back, we did show interest to partner with Mr Ratan Tata (for jointly bidding for AI). At that time he was not interested because they were already partner with Vistara (Singapore Airlines) and AirAsia. He at that time did not think of investing in AI. If Tata would have agreed to partner with us, we would have bid for AI that time.”
Qatar Airways was hoping to purchase a stake of Air India along with the Tatas a few years ago. Photo: Qatar AirwaysThe idea that Tata was not interested in bidding for Air India in 2018 might comes as a surprise considering it is currently one of two bidders for the airline. However, Mr. Al Baker confirmed that Tata only decided to change its mind about bidding for the airline recently.
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Despite not being a partner with Tata for its current bid for Air India, Qatar Airways is confident that Air India will return to its former glory. While many have questioned Tata’s logic about buying the debt-ridden airline, Mr. Al Baker expressed his understanding about the group’s choice to buy the airline, saying,
“I wish Mr Ratan Tata all the best. He is a good friend. I really congratulate him for trying to buy the household silver that once upon a time was nationalised. AI was launched and belonged to Tatas once upon a time. Those were its golden days.”
Qatar Airways expects Air India to become its competitor once again. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple FlyingMr. Al Baker is no stranger to Air India’s glory days, having flown the carrier frequently while he studied in India. He also expects Air India to be a possible competitor to Qatar in the future once it is refurbished and reborn as a new carrier.
Not closing the door on India
Despite missing out on the chance to buy Air India, Qatar’s flag carrier still wants a piece of the Indian market. Just yesterday, Mr. Al Baker expressed a keen interest to buy a stake in low-cost giant IndiGo, an airline he is all-praise for and currently has a codeshare agreement with Qatar.
India holds great potential for all foreign airlines, with traffic expected to double in the coming decades. Qatar is one of many vying for more room to expand in the country to tap into this huge market.
What are your thoughts on Qatar Airways’ interest in India? Should they have bid for the airline? Let us know in the comments!