Qatar Airways CEO Says Women Can't Do His Job Because It's Hard

Sean Reid
June 8, 2018

Case in point: Among the 26 airline executives posing for a photo at an IATA event, during which Al Baker was tapped for his new role, there was only one woman, Christine Ourmières-Widener, CEO of Flybe Group Plc, a regional carrier in the United Kingdom.

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker has assumed his duties as chairman of the IATA Board of Governors (BoG) for a one-year term, effective from the conclusion of the 74th IATA Annual General Meeting which ended in Sydney on Tuesday.

Al Baker later said Qatar Airways was the first carrier in the Middle East to have female pilots.

He also claimed that there was no gender inequality at Qatar Airways and said the carrier's staff is more than 33% female.

Al Baker is the incoming chairman of its board of governors.

"Qatar Airways is made stronger by its female employees for whom I hold nothing but the highest regard", he said.

A day later, he issued "heartfelt apologies for any offense caused", though he said his comment was "sensationalized by the media", per the BBC.

Al Baker sits on the board at Heathrow Airport, whose chief executive John Holland-Kaye distanced himself from the comment.

For instance, during an earlier spat between Qatar Airways and its chief competitor, Delta Air Lines, Al Baker's vowed to "hang on the wall" Delta's CEO Richard Anderson.

When asked at a CAPA conference on Wednesday whether he truly believed only a man could do his job, Al Baker offered a different response.

He defended his airline's record of gender diversity, saying 44 percent of its staff were female including some in senior positions.

In this January 15, 2015, file photo, a new Qatar Airways Airbus A350 approaches the gate at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany.

The airline, which he has run since 1997, was previously criticised for sacking women who became pregnant and having contractual bans on flight attendants getting married.

"What are some of the resolutions, some of the ideas, that IATA will try to bring to the forefront, to have more women represented in airlines?" the reporter asked.

In 2017, he apologised after calling USA flight attendants "grandmothers" during a trade row with United States airlines, prompting an airline union to accuse him of sexism and age discrimination.

Global airline profits will be slashed 12 per cent this year as average oil prices reach $60 a barrel, IATA said in its forecast report.

He said he supported all Iata initiatives to promote the advancement of women in the industry.

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