Flying into trouble

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How ‘successful’ is it really?!

Wales’ main airport proclaims it wants an airline to be ‘successful’ despite the country controlling it being accused of supporting terrorism, a warning from the UK Government to travellers about attacks and with it holding pariah status among other nations, while the organisation’s contentious link up has been hugely-praised in the mainstream mediaThe Eye can reveal.

The troubled desert emirate of Qatar has hit the headlines again following the controversial connection with Cardiff Airport (CA).

Passengers at Cardiff Airport but not enough of them

Now the airport’s Chief Commercial Officer Spencer Birns has said:   “Qatar Airways (QA) are committed to the route (with Qatar’s capital Doha) and we want them to be successful”.

The extraordinary statement came as figures showed that just 6,077 passengers had used the service in June, although this too is viewed as a ‘success’ by CA because it was a big increase on the previous year.

It came after other remarkable comments.

Roger Lewis, then Chairman of Cardiff Airport (third from left) with Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akber Al Baker, (fourth from left) the Welsh Secretary at the time Alun Cairns (fourth from right) and the then Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones (second from right) greeting Qatar Airways

The Chairman of CA at the time, Roger Lewis described as “transformational” the link with QA.

The airport itself has been enormously controversial after being bought by the Welsh Government (WG) for £52 million (while Glasgow Prestwick Airport was bought by the Scottish Government {SG} for £1) and with it emerging the WG has also granted a £21 million loan.

Meanwhile disturbing headlines have also swirled around Qatar’s alleged actvities, putting further pressure on the association with CA.

The UK Government has issued a stern warning about the state.

The UK Government issued a strong warning

It told potential travellers to the country they faced major risks, and it stated on its advice website:  “Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Qatar.

Eight sovereign nations around the world have severed diplomatic ties with Qatar and in July 2017 it was reported that the state had been cut off by some of its powerful Arab neighbours over its alleged terrorist support.

Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood

Qatar denies supporting groups linked to IS although it does admit it supports the Muslim Brotherhood.

The emirate had refused to comply with an initial list of 13 demands, saying it would not agree to any measures that threatened its sovereignty or violated international law.

But it was told by its neighbours that they wanted it to accept six broad principles on combating extremism and terrorism.

They wanted their President to go but the National Museum of Wales wanted Roger Lewis to come

Qatar also hosted the ousted ruler of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, who was convicted of corruption in a Sudanese court on December 14 but he seems unlikely to be extradited to stand trial for overseeing genocide in Darfur.

It also kept silent as hundreds of thousands of Algerians protested, chanting “the people want the regime to go”.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in ‘aid’ money has too been given by Qatar to Hamas, the group which holds sway in the Gaza Strip, and which has been designated by the USA as a terrorist organisation.

Qatar’s successful World Cup bid has prompted major questions

Qatar’s successful football World Cup bid has prompted major questions as well, putting under more strain the relationship with CA.

The Sunday Times, has revealed that the tiny desert state had secretly offered £400 million to FIFA just 21 days before the worrying decision was announced to hold the 2022 football World Cup there.

Carwyn Jones has ‘interesting’ meeting with Qatari

Despite all these controversies the mainstream media, senior politicians in Wales as well as executives at CA have lauded the connection with QA, and The Eye have been the only Welsh media organisation to report uncomfortable facts about the country.

In interviews, the First Minister of Wales at the time, Carwyn Jones stated:  “We would like to work with his excellency (Akbar Al Baker the Chief Executive of QA).

He tweeted that he “welcomed” the first QA flight into CA and said it represented a “huge boost” for Wales.

The then Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns informed us:  “The new flight from Cardiff to Doha plugs our entrepreneurs straight into one of the most dynamic economies in the Middle East, and an airport which offers a further 150 global destinations”.

Qatar denies supporting groups linked to Islamic State

The mainstream media’s response to the announcement of the new route at the time was also remarkable, and became the subject of our satirical writer Edwin Phillips.

The new flight to Qatar’s Hamed International Airport was described positively in the South Wales Echo as providing “capacity for 150,000 passengers a year, as well as significant freight capacity for Welsh exporters at around 10 tonnes a flight”.

Roger Lewis – ‘a pivotal moment’

In April 2017 BBC Wales’s Economics Correspondent Sarah Dickins said approvingly:  “The new direct route from Cardiff to Doha is a reminder not just that the economy of Qatar is growing significantly but also that trade between Wales, the Arab world and beyond is increasing”.

When the first flight from Doha was due, WalesOnline reported faithfully the words of Mr Lewis when he said: “This is a pivotal moment for Cardiff Airport, for Wales and the South West of EnglandThe far reaching consequences of this service for passengers and businesses will be transformational”.

Deb Bowen Rees – ‘transformational’

The same praising word was used by the present Chief Executive of CA Deb Bowen Rees who told the South Wales Echo:  “The Qatar Airways service has been transformational…”

It seems Mr Lewis has also transformed himself since the tie-up with QA.

He is to take on a new position as president of the National Museum of Wales/Amgueddfa Cymru.

But he is no stranger to controversies.

Before his tenure at CA, he was fully immersed during a tumultuous period in charge of the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) when his institution engaged in a fierce row with the regions, which he lost.

Dafydd Elis Thomas – ‘delighted’

Yet despite this chequered history, on his appointment, the Welsh Deputy Minister for Culture Sport and Tourism, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, said: “I’m delighted with Roger’s appointment as the new president for Amgueddfa Cymru”.

Mr Lewis too has apparently seen his moves in a positive light and has commented on television in the past:  “I know my success is staggering to many”.

Roger Lewis – ‘staggering’

Part of that ‘staggering success’ may be that he has also threatened to place a legal injunction on The Eye to stop a previous article about him being published which he did not like, but was effectively only a pull-together of previous statements such as this.

It appears CA also want to see state-controlled QA ‘succeed’ despite their country being mired in scandal about allegedly supporting terrorism, and with other nations steering well clear of it…

 

Tomorrow – why the ‘calls’ to emergency services still have to be made by reporters at Christmas. 

Book posterOur Editor Phil Parry’s memories of his astonishing 36-year award-winning career in journalism as he was gripped by the incurable disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major new book ‘A Good Story’. Order the book now. The picture doubles as a cut-and-paste poster!

 

 

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