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After getting himself into some hot water on Tuesday by saying his job could not be performed by a woman, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al Baker is formally apologizing.
“I would like to offer my heartfelt apologies for any offence caused by my comment yesterday, which runs counter to my track record of expanding the role of women in leadership throughout the Qatar Airways Group and has been sensationalised by the media,” al Baker said in a statement on Wednesday, according to the BBC.
Although the statement blames the media for reporting his comments, it does count as an apology.
Al Baker made the original comments at the International Air Transport Association annual meeting in Sydney, Australia. When asked about the overall dearth of women in the aviation sector, he denied that gender parity was an issue in the industry. Then, in reference to his own position, he said, “Of course it has to be led by a man, because it is a very challenging position.”
The comment came just minutes after vowing to avoid controversial statements after becoming the chair of the aviation group’s board of governors, a 31-member top industry panel of which only two women are members. Reports say the crowd audibly groaned and booed after he said it.
Later on Tuesday, he attempted to roll back the remarks, telling reporters that “it would be my pleasure to have a female CEO candidate I could develop to become CEO after me.” He also tried to play it off as a joke in a Qatar Airways statement, noting that he is “known in the media for some lightheartedness at press conferences.”
It’s not al Baker’s first brush with controversy regarding comments on women aviation staff.
At a press conference in 2017, he said US flight attendants were “grandmothers” and bragged that Qatar Airways cabin crew members have an average age of 26. “By the way, the average age of my cabin crew is only 26 years, so there is no need for you to travel on this crap American carriers. You know you are always being served by grandmothers at American carriers,” al Baker said at an event in Dublin to mark Qatar’s new Doha (DOH) to Dublin (DUB) route.
Featured image by Alberto Riva / The Points Guy.
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