Qatar Airways boss apologizes for remarks on women CEOs

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al-Baker, foreground, took back his comments on why women could not do his job, for which International Air Transport Association chief executive Alexandre de Juniac, background, said the airline chief has expressed his apologies. (AFP)
Updated 06 June 2018

Qatar Airways boss apologizes for remarks on women CEOs

SYDNEY: The head of Qatar Airways apologized on Wednesday for saying that a woman could not do his job, while global airlines pledged to speed up efforts to break down gender imbalances in aviation.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al-Baker said his remarks at the closing of a global airlines gathering on Tuesday had been intended as a joke and taken out of context.
He defended his airline’s record of gender diversity, saying 44 percent of its staff were female including some in senior positions.
“Quite frankly I think the press took it out of context. They ... blew it out of proportion. It was just a joke...I apologize for it,” Al-Baker told a CAPA-Center for Aviation conference in Sydney.
Asked on Tuesday about female employment among Middle East airlines and why his job as CEO could not be done by a woman, Al-Baker had said: “Of course it has to be led by a man because it is a very challenging position.”
He made the comments at a news conference following a meeting of airlines group International Air Transport Association (IATA), moments after being elected its chairman.
The remarks drew criticism on social media.
The issue of gender imbalance in aviation was a hot topic at the three-day annual meeting of IATA — only six of whose 280-member airlines, or 2 percent, have female chief executives.
Al-Baker later said Qatar Airways was the first carrier in the Middle East to have female pilots.
On Wednesday, the director-general of IATA noted that Al-Baker had earlier apologized for his comments.
“But the immediate reaction illustrated that expectations for change are high. And it is absolutely clear that aviation has a lot of work to do on gender balance at senior levels,” Alexandre de Juniac added in a blog on IATA’s website.
Al-Baker is one of the airline industry’s most outspoken figures, known for provocative and often humorous criticism of rival airlines or suppliers, but he has also drawn criticism over the judgment of some of his declarations.
In 2017 he apologized after calling US flight attendants “grandmothers” during a trade row with US airlines, prompting an airline union to accuse him of sexism and age discrimination.
In 2014, Qatar Airways defended policies on pregnancy and marriage for cabin crew after coming under fire over working conditions in the conservative Gulf emirate.
Asked at Wednesday’s CAPA conference whether he truly believed that only a man could do his job, Al-Baker said, “No, I don’t believe that. As a matter of fact (at) Air Italy the majority shareholder has shortlisted women to be CEO and as minority shareholder we are actively encouraging that.”
Sharing a podium, Willie Walsh, the head of British Airways owner IAG, said the industry had a long way to go in promoting women, starting with IATA, a quasi-international organization with two women on its 31-person board.
“This whole debate should encourage more,” Walsh said.
“If you look at the board it is predominantly middle-aged white men from Europe. We have more diversity on the board now than we have had for a long time, and we have to strive to improve that situation.”
Al-Baker pledged to bring more women onto IATA’s board, but said there had been few applicants. Board members must be a CEO. IATA says just 3 percent of airlines have a female leader.
Delegates said seats are also divided up by region, meaning some national airlines may have to release influential board seats to favor a female candidate from their own region, but a woman in one region could not benefit from a vacancy in another.
“Bridging the gap at senior levels will not be simple,” de Juniac wrote.
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.
US 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.


Saudi Arabia, Iraq confirm full commitment to OPEC+ agreement- statement

Updated 30 min 38 sec ago

Saudi Arabia, Iraq confirm full commitment to OPEC+ agreement- statement

  • Both countries ministers said efforts by OPEC+ to meet their output cuts will enhance market stability

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Iraq on Monday confirmed their full commitment to the OPEC+ agreement.
Saudi Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, and Iraqi Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul Jabbar Ismail held discussions on developments in the oil markets, the improved global demand for oil, and progress in implementing the current OPEC+ agreement to reduce production.
OPEC and its allies led by Russia, a group known as OPEC+, agreed to cut oil output from May by a record 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd) after the coronavirus crisis destroyed a third of global demand.
The record cuts are now due to run to the end of July, before tapering to 7.7 million bpd until December.
But some OPEC members have not fully delivered on their agreed production cuts since May.
During a phone call, the Saudi minister commended Iraq’s performance within the framework of the agreement, as the country’s level of commitment in June reached nearly 90 percent.
Prince Abdulaziz thanked the Iraqi minister for his efforts in reaching the target, and expressed his confidence that Iraq will continue to improve its level of compliance with the oil cuts.
Ismail said Iraq would continue to improve compliance with the cuts to reach 100 percent by the start of August, pledging to compensate from July to September for the overproduction in May and June.
Both ministers also said that efforts by OPEC+, and the participating countries in the agreement, to meet their output cuts would enhance market stability and speed up their balanced recovery.

  • With Reuters