Qatar Airways Group chief executive Akbar Al Baker has been elected chairman of the board of governors of IATA, effective June 2018.
The rotating one-year term will commence at the end of IATA’s 2018 annual general meeting in Sydney and will continue until the end of its 2019 meeting.
Outspoken Al Baker, known for his tough business stance with rival carriers and aircraft manufacturers, will succeed current IATA board of governors chairman Goh Choon Phong, chief executive of Singapore Airlines.
Qatar Airways flights are currently having to reroute in the Middle East Gulf because of a a trade embargo imposed on Qatar by its neighbours Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt.
The carrier has also dropped plans to acquire up to a 10% stake in American Airlines. In a statement, Qatar Airways said that “taking into account the latest public disclosure of American Airlines”, the investment “no longer meets our objectives”.
Al Baker said of his IATA appointment: “I am honoured to have been chosen by my fellow board members to head this important body, at a time when the industry faces numerous challenges on a multitude of levels.
He added: “For more than two decades I have lived and breathed aviation, and I look forward to working alongside the Board of Governors to champion passenger rights and improve security standards across the industry, as well as continuing to promote the rights of freedom of flight for all.”
IATA represents some 275 airlines comprising 83% of global air traffic.
A statement from Qatar Airways said that Al Baker is “one of the most recognisable figures in international aviation”.
It continued: “His vision and commitment enabled the development of Qatar Airways from a small regional carrier into a major global airline in a span of just 20 years. Under his leadership, Qatar Airways has become one of the world’s most highly-respected airlines, competing on a scale very few airlines achieve.”