Published: Wed, June 06, 2018
Money | By Wilma Wheeler

Airline boss stirs gender debate with provocative comment

Airline boss stirs gender debate with provocative comment

Qatar Airways followed up with a statement from Al Baker suggesting his comment had been made in jest.

Qatar Airways has in the past faced criticism for its treatment of female cabin staff, with the Guardian reporting in 2015 that they had in the past been fired for such reasons as being pregnant and having a tattoo.

Afterwards, during in interview with Bloomberg TV, Mr Al Baker pointed out that more than one-third of Qatar Airways staff were female, including pilots and senior vice-presidents.

The carrier has female pilots and female senior vice presidents, he said.

Willie Walsh, CEO of British Airways and Aer Lingus owner IAG ICAG.L , said the industry needed to attract more women and that progress had been slow.

"There's no gender inequality in Qatar Airways", he said.

"If you get the best talent, the best people, the best jobs you're going to perform better", he said, sitting alongside Al Baker at a press briefing.

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".

Mr Al Baker's response was met with gasps, boos, and indignant responses from the media, with Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce reminding Mr Al Baker of his promise to refrain from making controversial comments after accepting his position as chairman of the IATA board of governors.

"So we actually encourage women".

The boycott forced Qatar Airways to scrap some short-haul routes while diverting many intercontinental services because of airspace closures, making flight times longer and increasing fuel burn. Qantas Airways Ltd.'s senior management is 40 per cent female, including the heads of the worldwide and frequent-flier loyalty businesses, CEO Alan Joyce said.

Al Baker's apology was shared by Qatar Airlines.

Although Al Baker quickly backtracked on his comments, stating that it would be his pleasure to "have a female CEO candidate [he] could then develop to become CEO", the Twitter community did not take too kindly to the embattled airlines chief. "But clearly we, as an industry, have a big task ahead of us". The Qatar Airways chief previous year apologized after describing American flight attendants as "grandmothers", as opposed to the average age of 26 for cabin crews working at his carrier.

Like this: