Kamahl Santamaria

Kamahl Santamaria
Broadcast journalist
Al Jazeera

Kamahl is an anchor for international news channel Al Jazeera English. Born in New Zealand, he has lived in Doha, Qatar for nine years, and occasionally reports on aviation for his business and economics program Counting the Cost.


Location: DOH
Frequent flight: DOH-DXB
Now watching: House of Cards (coming to it very late, but wow, how good is Kevin Spacey!?)
Hero: Doctors, surgeons, firefighters… people who dedicate themselves to saving others for no other reason than it’s what they want to do.
IFE standby: Reruns of old sitcoms that I’d never admit to actually watching and enjoying!
Years in industry: 16 (media)
Best airline-industry acronym: IATA (because I like the way they make you say it… EYE-AAA-TA!)
The future of flight will be: Mind-bending!
Favorite airport: Hamad International Airport, Doha
Favorite airport restaurant: Pret A Manger (just a sandwich joint, but I love them!)
Favorite hotel: Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill
Favorite aircraft: On the outside, the A380. On the inside, the Dreamliner 787.
Brand of suitcase: Tumi
Paper or electronic pass? Always electronic
Passport stamp you wish you had: Hong Kong

How frequently do you travel?
Five times a year.

What class of cabin do you typically travel in?

What was the most enjoyable flight you’ve ever had?
Being upgraded from business to first on a flight from London Heathrow to Doha – despite being unshaven, disheveled and probably not smelling that great either.

What was the most enjoyable airport experience you’ve ever had?
Meeting the woman who later became my wife in the departure lounge of JFK Airport. It was the day of a plane crash (two months after 9/11) so it was the silver lining on that very sad day.

If you could change one thing about the airline industry or the passenger experience, what would it be?
Security checks are the thing I most dread when traveling. They’re obviously important, but the way they bottleneck and slow down the entire airport experience is a constant battle.

What do you think the airline industry is doing particularly well right now?

Airlines are competing like never before. In premium cabins especially, they’re all trying to outdo each other, and that’s a good thing for the passenger.

How do you imagine the future of commercial air travel in the next 5 years?
More innovation, more onboard products – anything to set one airline apart from another. I’m hoping the on-board experience will keep getting more comfortable!

What’s your favorite airport?
Hamad International Airport in Doha. Brand new, and such an extraordinary step up from the old Doha International. Though anything would be better than before.

Favorite airline?
Call me parochial, but it’s Qatar Airways. Nine years of flying with them regularly has shown me how far they, and the other Gulf airlines, are ahead of the legacy carriers. Some [legacy carriers] don’t even come close.

Best way to stay entertained during your journey?
Watching reruns of old sitcoms, and episodes of shows that you wouldn’t want anyone to know you actually watch. For example, I sometimes watch The Big Bang Theory on flights… I don’t want anyone to know that… oh wait, I just told everyone. That was stupid.

What amenity do you consider to be the most important?
I almost consider food to be an amenity. On a long-haul flight, you need it to be good… something you look forward to. Bad food can mess up an otherwise good flight.

If you could have three things, services or experiences on your next flight, what would they be?
A quick ride through security… not getting called to the gate ridiculously early… and a good meal!

Something that never ceases to amaze you in your industry?
That people, all over the world, can find reasons to kill and hurt one another. I know that’s very broad and vague, but as a news anchor with Al Jazeera I see an extraordinary amount of suffering on-screen… and I still can’t comprehend it.

Three things about where you live that make you want to live there.
Doha, Qatar: year-round sunshine, great standard of living, gas costs $0.27 USD a liter!

The person you can imitate?
Owen Franks. You don’t know him; he’s just a guy I work with. But if you did know him, you’d be like, wow, Kamahl does the best impression of this guy. Like, spookily accurate.

Cliché that you use too often?
I’m going to be a snob here and declare that I don’t use clichés! As a journalist, I hate them and actively try to rid my speech and writing of them.

Talent you wish you possessed?
The ability to draw really well.

The game you’re best at?
Guess Who? – I will destroy you at that game every time. Even if you’re six years old, I will take no mercy.

Three things of no value that you will never get rid of?
My old high school rugby jersey, my key ring from the first TV network I worked for, my media pass from the Zimbabwean elections in 2008.

How you waste time at work:
Twitter, Amazon, talking to people who’ve probably got lots of work to do.

One thing you wished people cared more about?
Each other.

The achievement you’re most proud of?
Cracking the TV journalism industry aged 18, and never looking back or believing that I couldn’t do it. Sixteen years later, I’m still here.

The thing that makes you the most nervous?
Stingrays. I hate them. They freak me out so much. Even a picture of them.

If you had the APEX editorial team over for dinner, what would you make us?
Poutine, obviously!