Ironic: Qatar-Funded Air Italy Sponsors Toronto Pride

Filed Under: Other Airlines, Qatar

Air Italy is 49% owned by Qatar Airways, which is owned by the government of Qatar. Air Italy is expanding like crazy (though they’ve already canceled some of their expansion), and obviously that growth is fueled by Qatar Airways, given that they’re providing the planes, and largely the money, that makes this possible.

The airline will be launching flights between Milan and Toronto as of May 6, 2019. It’s normal for airlines to sponsor events to get their name out there, but I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw the headline I got in my email just now.

Air Italy is sponsoring Toronto Pride

“Air Italy To Sponsor Toronto Pride As Official European Carrier.”

That’s right, Air Italy, essentially funded by the Qatari government, is sponsoring a gay event.

Air Italy’s COO had the following to say about this:

“Since the rebranding programme started last March, Air Italy has been clear in its focus as an innovative and contemporary airline focused on providing an exemplary customer experience.

Inherent within that – and as shown through our tagline, Imagine The World Differently – is a requirement that we must live, support and drive awareness of our core brand values, such as inclusivity and freedom of choice. By promoting the beauty of our differences, Air Italy will continue to Imagine The World Differently.

Given this, and with our highly anticipated launch of services to Canada in May, we are absolutely delighted to be able to take on our role as Official European Carrier for Toronto Pride 2019.

In tandem with this, because we highly value equality and inclusiveness, we have, and will continue to, review all our policies to ensure that we live by these values, both for our staff and our customers.”

To celebrate this, Air Italy is also offering a 20% discount on return fares from Italy to Toronto using promotion code AIRITALYPRIDE between June 16 and June 30, 2019.

Akbar Al Baker usually never misses a beat when it comes to an opportunity to be quoted in a press release, though he’s oddly missing from this one.

My take on this

This is certainly surprising, and I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about it. I see both sides.

On one hand, I imagine Qatar Airways was at least consulted on this, given that they own a 49% stake in Air Italy, and given that this had the potential to be controversial. If that’s the case then it’s safe to assume the airline didn’t veto it, and I’d consider that to be progress. Or maybe they weren’t consulted, and Air Italy’s management didn’t consider Qatar Airways here.

On the other hand, is it wrong for the event organizers to take money that’s indirectly coming from a country that has laws that greatly restrict the freedoms of LGBT people?

I know a lot of people will disagree with me, but personally (as a gay, married man) I’m happy to see this. It takes time for cultures to evolve, and that’s the case everywhere. Look at how much the US has come in the past few decades, and even in the past few years.

Progress happens slowly, and personally I think this is cool, even if in this case it comes in the form of Qatar Airways turning a blind eye to this sponsorship. I do find it a bit ironic, though.

Now if only Mr. Al Baker would appear on the Air Italy float, now that would make my year!

What do you think — is it cool for Air Italy to sponsor Toronto Pride, or not cool for this event to even take money from an airline funded by Qatar?

  1. As a gay Torontonian who attended the first Toronto Pride (a sit-down protest after the cops raided the saunas in 1981) I’ve watched the even evolve. I say “cool”.

    But it will be hugely controversial. Pride currently forbids cops in uniform to participate (there’s history, as you might expect) so taking this sponsorship deal will raise some eyebrows here.

    I agree with Lucky: travel to unevolved coutries, welcome incremental progress, praise forward steps, even if they’re small.

    Toronto Pride, incidentally, is big big big. Easily on LA, SF, NYC scale. With a Canadian vibe (that’s a good thing). Our head of government marched in the parade, outdoors, in the first year of his mandate. Yes, I wept.

  2. @ DenB(R)
    “Our head of government marched in the parade…”

    Now wouldn’t it really be something if your head of state were to do the same…?

    Reminds me of a story about Queen Elizabeth (the “Queen Mother”), who famously liked a drink. One evening, frustrated that no-one had answered the bell-call at Clarence House, she famously telephoned to the butler and demanded to know “if one of the old queens down there will come and serve this old queen another gin…”.

  3. So I hope you can finally understand all those companies or politicians sponsoring or supporting human rights activities are either commercial or political. They eventually are doing this for their own benefits.

  4. At the end of the day – it’s all about brand and advertising.
    But I would love to see Akbar or Tamim in drag or leather harness on a float

    (side note – most Arab men are bi or gay….just saying…)

  5. So as you say basically this is an airline doing a sponsorship / promotion related to the starting a new route and a major event in the same city in order to generate some ticket buys and revenue and hopefully profits.

    So nothing new yet you want to project a political view onto it?

    Most of the times making money trumps any personal morals people have.
    I have no doubt that many gay people travel on QR despite the legal position of homosexuality in Qatar.

    Sometimes a cheap deal trumps peoples morals.

    BTW The nice Paul – the title The Queen Mother does not need to be in quotation marks as it was her legitimate title.

  6. @ChrisC “nothing new”? I can’t tell whether you’re serious and I really don’t know where to begin to unpack your wtitings.

    I’ll just assume you’re not gay and skip it.

  7. @DenB indeed there is nothing new in an airline promoting a new route or sponsoring events in cities they fly to to generate publicity.

    If that is a new concept to you then where have you been hiding?

    And not that it has anything to do with the price of fish but I am gay.


    You’ve obviously never been to Folsom Street Fair because if you had you’d know that (a) many tens and tens of thousands of straight people attend and (b) there are no orgies on the street.

  8. @ChrisC you’re right about Folsom. And you’re absolutely right that there’s nothing new in *an* airline sponsoring *an* event.

    I think we might be having two different conversations.


  9. I think most people don’t know about the Qatar/Air Italy stuff, so they’ll gladly accept that sponsor.
    The money isn’t going directly from QR to the pride, but from IG, IG’s logo will be on the parade, not QR.
    You should be thankfull to IG for them allowing a big party to be bigger. Forget about the background and just let it be.

    Irony is someone who’s gay working for any airline that is controlled by those countries that punishes someone for being gay.
    In the end, is all about money

  10. @Netta, it’s really homophobic to tell Lucky to “go back to reviewing amenity kits” whenever he runs a story involving the LGBTQ community. When a female nurse mentions her husband, her marriage or any other part of thei heterosexual life, nobody tells her to go back to nursing. Heterosexuals flaunt their sexuality, their relationships and their lifestyle all the time, without the slightest second thought, and they just assume it’s normal and perfectly acceptable to do so. Lucky deserves the same respect. Don’t tell him to “move on”. That’s homophobic, pure and simple.

  11. @[email protected]

    Ma’am I don’t know what you’re on about but I am certain you are a racist for calling me a homophobic. I don’t judge people by who they marry or what kind of nursing job they have. I come here for the review of airline amenity kits and would like the author to do that. Racist!

  12. @derek
    Eyeroll. Lucky knows a lot about premium cabin travel. That includes reviewing amenity kits. Other stuff… not so much. Lucky couldn’t wait to be the first tourist to visit Saudi Arabia. But then a Muslim Brotherhood propaganda operative was killed in a Saudi consulate and the pro-Iran/anti-Saudi faction engaged in the heavy PR campaign. Suddenly, Lucky drastically changed his attitude toward visiting Saudi Arabia. In the meantime nothing changed in Saudi Arabia’s treatment of gay people.

  13. @Mario Fonseca No but being in a gay relationship is. It is impossible to police someone for being gay, it is possible to control their relationships

  14. By the way, I watched the movie “milk” on a Qatar flight from Jakarta to London. All things are possible.

  15. help
    I’m being repressed

    I read the request to return to Amenity Kit Review and I thought it was funny and appropriate. The thread was starting to get snippy (Debit had contributed). I didn’t feel it was homophobic and after re-reading it, I still don’t.

  16. I doubt Qatar was asked about this: a marketing decision to sponsor one event in a new market is typically not a board level decision, so no reason Qatar’s board member(s) at Air Italy would be asked…
    Besides, QR is distributing alcohol in violation of Qatar’s laws, so sponsoring a pride event probably doesn’t bother them if it increases yields…

  17. Lots of companies don’t necessarily subscribe to the views of the government where they are based. It would be hard for Qatar to sponsor itself, but why not passively support it when it comes from a group company based in a more tolerant country. Companies don’t have to subscribe to the views of their home governments. The LGBTQ community makes sense for a business to court – they on average have more disposable income and are better educated – a quality customer base. It is one of the reasons Subaru has targeted.

  18. Grrizzly – You say that as if he HAS to only travel to places that treat gay people well, which is pretty ridiculous (you’re effectively imposing restrictions on him for being gay).

    I visit countries all the time that I strongly disagree with. While it’s not quite the same as they don’t openly want me dead, if they had similar attitudes to a characteristic of mine I could also easily hide (such as my atheism), I’d imagine I’ll still go. Not least because I think isolating people rarely makes them reconsider their opinion.

  19. @ ChrisC

    “the title The Queen Mother does not need to be in quotation marks as it was her legitimate title”

    Nonsense. Her “correct” title was Dowager Queen Elizabeth (“Dowager” is the traditional title awarded to the queen of a dead monarch). But she hated the word “dowager” which, to her, implied she was a parasitical relict (er, yes). And she apparently resented handing over precedence to her own daughter – hence her inventing a brand-new title for herself which included the word “queen” not just once but twice.

    Little Lilibet caved under pressure from her mamma, and so a new title was invented. It doesn’t make that title “correct” in any historically meaningful sense and, since a hereditary monarchy gets what little legitimacy it has from precedent and tradition, it is arguable that the “legitimate” thing to do is, indeed, to shove it into quotation marks.

    Dunno what any of this has to do with points and miles.

  20. @ Mark

    “I watched the movie “milk” on a Qatar flight from Jakarta to London”

    You poor thing: what a terrible movie. All those straight actors “gaying up” (oh, but never actually kissing on screen. God no. That would be so Gay…).

    A vastly better movie on the same topic is the 1984 Oscar-winning documentary “The Times of Harvey Milk” – which features the real-life gays playing themselves and, frankly, brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it.

  21. Potentially unpopular opinion: I’m still convinced that AAB is only waiting to come out of the closet. I’m not the first to think that and certainly won’t be the last one to think that.

  22. Well, I have been told by Qatar Airways crew about the rumor that His Exellency is gay… That is even more ironic

  23. I work for a very large Travel Management Company which is also partially funded by Qatar. We have domestic partner insurance, LGBT non-discrimination policies and a 100% rating from HRC. So this news of Air Italy doesn’t surprise me. I think Qatar has more of a hands off approach to some of their investments than they do with Qatar Airways.

  24. About 5 years ago Qatar Airways had just launched a route to Philadelphia. To celebrate this fact they decided to do a feature on movies set-in Philadelphia in their in-flight magazine.

    It amused me how they discussed a huge number of Philadelphia set films including Rocky etc. while one of the most famous and critically aclaimed Philadelphia based films that is called simply “Philadelphia” did not even get a passing mention. I cannot imagine why…

  25. @Netta, first you make a homophobic comment to Lucky. Then in your response to me, even though my name is obviously a male one, you mis gender me. Then in the process of your denial, you make spurious claims about racism, even though I obviously cannot tell your ethnicity from your comment. How many ways can you define yourself as a bigot? And a gaslighting one at that. Go ahead and response to this. Let’s see how much deeper you can dig this mud hole you seem to enjoy wallowing in.

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