Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker's sexist comments don't fly

Alicia Cross
June 6, 2018

The CEO of Qatar Airways, where women make up almost half the company's workforce, apologized for saying that a woman couldn't do his job because it was "very challenging".

"With a female workforce of more than 33 per cent, as I mentioned today, it would be my pleasure if I could help develop a female candidate to be the next CEO of Qatar Airways".

Although Mr. Al Baker's comments elicited disapproving noises during the news conference, he's far from the only senior businessman to make such remarks.

When the Qatar carrier's outspoken Chief Executive was asked about the issue of gender equality in the airline industry and why his job could not be done by a woman, Al-Baker said: "Of course it has to be led by a man because it is a very challenging position".

The airline industry wants to attract more women, but no one seems to have told the trade body's new chairman.

However, the airline has issued a formal statement from Al Baker, who has run Qatar Airways since 1997.

That's when Al Baker said that "of course" it "has to be led by a man".

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When asked what the association - long regarded as one of the world's most powerful "boys' club" - meant to do to increase the representation of women in the senior ranks of Middle East aviation, he responded: "That's not the case at Qatar Airways".

The comments were met with astonished gasps and groans of disapproval from other attendees of the conference.

The gender row comes amid a deeper debate about whether airlines based on different national social models, recruitment policies and wage structures can compete on equal terms. Two-fifths of Qantas Airways' senior management is female, including the heads of the global and frequent-flier loyalty businesses, according to the airline's chief executive, Alan Joyce.

"So we actually encourage women". We see that they have huge potential in doing senior management positions.

USA and some European airlines have accused Gulf carriers of unfair competition based on subsidies and social policies, but Walsh - whose group counts Qatar Airways as a shareholder - said he believed Gulf airlines competed on an equal footing.

Last year, Mr Baker was forced to apologised "unreservedly" for his unflattering description of USA flight attendants as "grandmothers". "He lasted 10 minutes - 10 minutes", Mr Joyce said.

'Aer Lingus recruited its first female pilot in 1977...

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