Part of the reason why I want Virgin America to start serving Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is Richard Branson, the founder of the business group that owns Virgin America. He makes multiple efforts to use his wealth and influence to benefit humankind – and tries to keep his airlines from following the typical model of cutting amenities and hiring surly personnel. I’d feel good handing my money to a Branson-led airline, and Sky Harbor needs all the help it can get to connect people to more places.
On the other side, there’s Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker. Because of him, I will not fly Qatar Airways. Under Al Baker’s watch, the airline treats flight attendants like cattle. He grandstands in a manner I can only compare to Sheriff Joe Arpaio – Al Baker recently touted a "historic announcement" that turned out to be the unveiling of a new advertising campaign. He downplayed an incident where a Qatar Airways 777 wiped out a bunch of landing lights at takeoff, sustained "substantial damage" yet continued on a 14-hour flight.
And now this: On a media flight of its first Airbus A350, the Qatar Airways crew had to abort its takeoff. This is in and of itself not a big deal. Aborted takeoffs happen all the time.
The way Qatar Airways officials reacted, though, is exactly the problem with this airline. A writer for the One Mile at a Time blog was aboard the flight – remember, this was a media flight. That means that any Qatar Airways employee can bet that anything that happens on that flight will get coverage. Here are some of the best bits from the blog post (this info came from Zach Honig, editor and chief of The Points Guy website):
- Some passengers wanted to deplane, and even though they returned to the gate, the CCO wouldn’t allow them to deplane, as he wanted to save face
- Zach was told to stop recording during the aborted takeoff-- a somewhat odd request on a media flight
- A passenger (who Zach thinks was an airline executive) came up to him and asked him to "stop Tweeting for now."
Zach also has a blog post about the aborted takeoff. It’s well worth reading.
I’m also amused that the Airbus A350 and its software made a unilateral decision that the runway wasn’t long enough and automatically aborted the takeoff – not the pilots.
Bottom line – I wouldn’t fly this airline, not even for free first-class tickets. There’s just no reason to support it.