Qatar Airways CEO doubts existence of coronavirus, says aviation shouldn’t be halted

Qatar Airways chief Akbar Al-Baker, probably the airline industry’s most colorful character, has been known to make controversial comments in the past. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 14 March 2020

Qatar Airways CEO doubts existence of coronavirus, says aviation shouldn’t be halted

  • ‘There is no scientific evidence for that. It is just, you know, a fear factor’

DUBAI: Akbar Al-Baker, chief executive of Qatar Airways, has doubted the existence of coronavirus currently affecting 126 countries and territories and has infected more than 132,000 individuals.

“During the incubation period, they say that this virus can be transmitted. There is no scientific evidence for that. It is just, you know, a fear factor,” the controversial airline chief said in an interview with Bloomberg, which was aired February 5 but resurfaced recently when it went viral among social media users.

“For them to do what they did to the Chinese cabin crew ... whoever goes to China cannot now go anywhere else in these countries for the next 14 days. They don’t realize the operational impact it would create on an airline,” Baker said.

“What evidence [do] you have that on every single airplane you do not have three or four people with contagious disease sitting next to you?”

Qatar on Wednesday said 238 new coronavirus cases had been discovered among expatriates quarantined in a residential compound, bringing the total to 262.

The Qatar Airways chief, probably the airline industry’s most colorful character, has been known to make controversial comments in the past, including claims that unions “made companies and institutions uncompetitive and bringing them to a position of not being efficient.”

Baker also received flak when he claimed the Doha-based airline’s contracts were not restrictive, particularly against women. Qatar Airways earlier faced accusations its female cabin crew members experienced discrimination, including being banned from marriage during the first five years of their contract and routinely being fired if they became pregnant.


Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee, head of South Korea’s biggest conglomerate, dies at 78

Updated 25 October 2020

Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee, head of South Korea’s biggest conglomerate, dies at 78

  • During his lifetime, Samsung Electronics developed from a second-tier TV maker to the world’s biggest technology firm by revenue

SEOUL: Lee Kun-hee, the charismatic leader of Samsung Group, South Korea’s biggest conglomerate, died on Sunday, the company said, six years he was hospitalized for a heart attack.
Lee, who was 78, helped grow his father Lee Byung-chull’s noodle trading business into a sprawling powerhouse with assets worth some $375 billion, with dozens of affiliates stretching from electronics and insurance to shipbuilding and construction.
“Lee is such a symbolic figure in South Korea’s spectacular rise and how South Korea embraced globalization, that his death will be remembered by so many Koreans,” said Chung Sun Sup, chief executive officer of corporate researcher firm Chaebul.com.
He is the latest second-generation leader of a South Korean family-controlled conglomerate to die, leaving potentially thorny succession issues for the third generation.
Lee’s son Jay Y. Lee has been embroiled in legal troubles linked to a merger of two Samsung affiliates that helped Lee assume greater control of the group’s flagship Samsung Electronics.
The younger Lee served jail time in his role in a bribery scandal that triggered the impeachment of then-President Park Geun-hye. He is facing a retrial over the case, and a separate trial on charges of accounting fraud and stock price manipulation kicked off this week.
The death of Lee, South Korea’s richest with a net worth of $20.9 billion according to Forbes, is set to prompt investor interest in a potential restructuring of the group involving his stakes in key Samsung companies such as Samsung Life and Samsung Electronics.
Samsung Life is the biggest shareholder of the group’s crown jewel Samsung Electronics, and Lee owns 20.76% of the insurance firm.
Lee died with his family by his side, including Jay Y. Lee, the Samsung Electronics vice chairman, the conglomerate said.
“Chairman Lee was a true visionary who transformed Samsung into the world-leading innovator and industrial powerhouse from a local business. His 1993 declaration of ‘New Management’ was the motivating driver of the company’s vision to deliver the best technology to help advance global society,” Samsung said in a statement.
During his lifetime, Samsung Electronics developed from a second-tier TV maker to the world’s biggest technology firm by revenue — seeing off Japanese brands Sony, Sharp Corp. and Panasonic Corp. in chips, TVs and displays; ending Nokia Oyj’s handset supremacy and beating Apple Inc. in smartphones.
“His legacy will be everlasting,” Samsung said.
Chung at Chaebul.com said, “Immediate attention will be given to the roughly 5% stake Lee has in Samsung Electronics,” and how this will be distributed to his family.