Women can't run airlines, says gaffe-prone Qatar Airways chief

06 June, 2018, 12:53 | Author: Billie Castillo
  • Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker discusses the economic boycott of Qatar and his long-term business strategy

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

Pressed further as to why being a woman was incompatible with holding the CEO position, Al-Baker said that he was "only referring to one individual" and "not to the staff in general".

Qatar Airways' chief has sparked disbelief by saying his carrier was led by a man because "it is a very challenging position" - even as airline bosses admitted more women should be in top roles.

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.

That's when Al Baker said that "of course" it "has to be led by a man". "Because it is a very challenging position", Al Baker responded, prompting gasps and groans from the room of reporters.

He eventually went on to tell Bloomberg: "We actually encourage women". Qantas Airways Ltd.'s senior management is 40 per cent female, including the heads of the global and frequent-flier loyalty businesses, CEO Alan Joyce said.

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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.

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.

The issue of gender imbalance in aviation was a hot topic at the annual meeting of IATA, only six of whose 280 member airlines have female chief executives. The profitability of airlines globally is expected to drop 12 per cent this year on a jump in fuel costs, the industry body warned this week.

Mr Joyce said that having a diverse workforce could help drive profits.

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

But Mr Joyce said it was "going to take a long time to fix some of the issues that are inherent in our society", such as girls not studying science and technology in schools, which impacted their numbers in engineering and flying roles.

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