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.