WOW: Qatar Airways CEO Apologizes For “Grandma” Comments

Filed Under: Qatar

Oh my goodness, I never thought I’d see the day where Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker, apologizes for a statement he made. Akbar is one of the most colorful guys in the airline industry and says some pretty crazy things, though I don’t think I’ve ever seen him issue an apology for any of those, no matter how ridiculous. Well, today is different, apparently.

I’ve been sent the following statement from Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker, regarding what he said about the “grandma” flight attendants at US airlines:

“I should like to apologise unreservedly to those offended by my recent remarks which compared Qatar Airways cabin crew with cabin crew on US carriers. The remarks were made informally at a private gala dinner, following comments about the Qatar Airways cabin service, and were in no way intended to cause offence. This is a time of strong rivalry between our airline and the US carriers, and we are of course immensely proud of our own cabin crew. However, cabin crew are the public face of all airlines, and I greatly respect their hard work and professionalism. They play a huge role in the safety and comfort of passengers, irrespective of their age or gender or familial status. I have worked for many years in the industry, and I have a high regard for the value that I see long-serving staff members bringing through their experience and dedication.”

This is in reference to Akbar’s statements last week at a gala intended to celebrate the airline launching flights to Dublin. During this he said the following while describing the Qatar Airways experience:

“Wide seats, plenty of legroom, as well as award winning service from our international cabin crew. By the way, the average age of my cabin crew is only 26 years, so there is no need for you to travel on this crap American carriers. You know you are always being served by grandmothers at American carriers.”

Here’s the video of what he said:

Now I’m not sure Akbar’s apology is much of an apology, but I suppose it’s better than nothing. He starts by apologizing “unreservedly,” but then the apology isn’t really for what he said, but rather for those that it offended. He goes on to justify what he said, say he has respect for everyone in the profession, etc., but doesn’t admit that what he said was wrong and in poor taste.

I wouldn’t call this a full apology, but it is more than we’ll otherwise ever get from him. Baby steps, I guess.

What do you make of Akbar’s apology?

  1. Just had 2 AA grandmas and they were great. He looks like an A**hole
    Grandpa. Is that like Allah Akbar?

  2. I’m embarrassed to live in a country ruled by fem-Nazis and self-hating men, and apologize to Mr. Akbar and all the other non-Americans that have to cater to this crap.

  3. Oh please. He did not write this. Some fancy PR firm probably wrote this on his behalf. Like the little snake that he is – he is probably hiding somewhere pouting and throwing things and breaking things. And you are correct Lucky – this is not a full apology. Some poor PR guy probably lost a dozen years of his / her life trying to get AAB to even agree to the statement that he ‘made’ You refer to baby steps – this guy needs to be put in a diaper and sent back to pre-school.

  4. Not like i have any love for CJ airlines but the truth hurts huh? lol american airlines and people who work there are pure scum.

  5. Stupid non-apology apology. It has the classic “not intended to cause offence” that every non-apology has. A real apology takes the blame for causing the offence, a non-apology blames the offended for taking offence. Terrible.

  6. Meh. I think he should’ve stood by it. It was pretty crass, yes, but ultimately not untrue.

    Part of the issue of legacy US carriers’ onboard product is their tenured FAs that long ago ceased to care about their jobs – which is very much customer service – aside from the benefits and the pension once they hit retirement. Gender, looks/attractiveness, and other superficial characteristics aside, there is definitely something to be said for aging and/or overweight crew members who “are here primarily for [my] safety”. The US carriers make such a big deal about the whole safety aspect (and downplay the service aspect) yet I have nearly zero faith in the abilities of an FA that’s 60+ years of age being able to adequately provide safety for a plane in the event of a mid-air incident or a landing like that of the OZ crash at SFO. Just look at the Delta incident the other week. If that had happened on a smaller plane with less crew – all of whom were in their golden years – things could’ve been a lot different.

    There’s a reason why police officers, firefighters, military, and other “safety-providing” professions have age limits when it comes to the more active aspects of the profession; there simply are limitations to what humans can do once past certain ages and physical abilities.

  7. If you are truly offended, you should not select Qatar Airways for any of your travel needs. Vote with your wallet.

    Personally, I don’t select United Airlines for any travel because they have caused pain and hurt to me previously and have been completely remorseless. Actions speak louder than words.

  8. Do people really consider ‘safety’ when determining the qualify of a flight attendant crew? The chance of a true emergency during your flight is virtually nil. The chance that your life might be saved by an experienced vs. non-experienced FA in those cases is even less.

  9. I’m excited for a second round of horny boys telling us about the women they like to stare at

  10. @EbonyTatas:

    That’s an interesting question and I think it falls back to the airlines. To me, the US carriers are pushing a “safety first, service second-or-not-at-all” model. Since those are *their* plans, then it’s absolutely okay to qualify the abilities of cabin crew based on age/size and overall physical abilities. We’re fortunate that air disasters are infrequent but they are a VERY real possibility. Hence the need for the FAs to be there “for [our] safety”. But flying is not just about safety. If so, they wouldn’t serve meals or have IFE at all. Since comfort and customer service are also key aspects of in-flight enjoyment, it’s also perfectly acceptable to qualify a crew – and subsequently their airline – by how well they perform their customer service duties. It’s ENTIRELY possible to be both a customer service-oriented *and* able to perform well in an emergency. They are NOT mutually exclusive.

    But to your latter point about being saved by a(n) (non-)experienced crew, the reports from the Asiana crash showed that the FAs performed very well in executing several safety procedures, some of which required they be more agile/nimble than I feel an “experienced” FA would be. And given the uptick we seem to be experiencing in disruptive passengers, I would take a younger, more athletic/fit FA over a more matronly, sedentary-lifestyle-looking FA any day. Though, I guess an FA with some “bulk” to them may be beneficial to pinning an aggressor to the ground.

  11. I’m busy booking Qatar flights today! Since when does CEO nonsense matter? I fly Ryanair too. 🙂

  12. There was no need for the “grandma” remark. ‘Fat and grumpy’ would have sufficed. 😉

  13. I beg to disagree. I have personally been on a delta flight with a mid air engine malfunction and an emergency landing and cannot be thankful enough to the veteran “grandma” crew who handled the situation better then I could ever imagine. They were extremely composed, sure footed and had the passengers absolutely reassured telling us that they had seen worst. Judging from how quickly they adopted the brace position and sprung up to open the exit doors I think they were more agile then any of us could be ourselves.

    On the point of service, I have to once again differ. I have flown quite a bit on KLM lately and find their crew to be among the best with most again being quite senior. There is a certain flair and polish that experience brings while being extremely attentive, charming and above all genuine. I prefer such service any day to the fear driven servility of MEE carriers notably Qatar. While I have seen the poor service on carriers such as BA and AA, this has more to do with mortals and culture then age.

  14. Here we go again, with another round of dirty old men coming out of the woodwork to complain that modern society no longer tolerates their desire to sexually leer at and harass women in service industries.

  15. @EbonyTatas – please stay out of countries like mine, where men and women are (at least supposed to be) legal and social equals – perhaps you’d be happier living in Qatar, where you can leer at and harass women to your heart’s content, and that kind of gross, childish behavior is more tolerated. Or, if you must, find a strip club or some other venue where you can pay for the female attention that women obviously otherwise deny you.

  16. Three points – it’s a non-apology, apology so it’s actually more egregious than the original comments. Second, it’s the height of hypocrisy for this old, ugly, bald man with bags under his eyes and a hook nose to trash American female flight attendants for their age. And finally, his comments referring to American carriers as “crap” all but insures that the Board of AA will never vote to allow his airline to purchase more than a 9.9% share of stock. His arrogance is exceeded only by his hypocrisy and stupidity.

  17. While the grandma comment was offensive, the truth is….

    US airlines babble about safety, as if it really matters. If the plane is going down, the pilots or cabin crew are not going to help ( don’t mention Sulley, that plane was not on fire or crashing).

    The reality is, there is NO service on U.S. based airlines. Mechanization is not service. Shoving a coke into your hand on their terms is not service. Herding people through the TSA and onto the plane is not service.

    This is why overseas airlines do a better job, and command higher fares, because people appreciate the service they receive, as opposed to the awful experience most U.S. based carriers and crews provide.

  18. Sorry, but his remark was hilarious and not at all far from the truth. Praise to his speech writer and well done to Akbar for carrying through and making the point. As an age-old BA loyalist, QR has taught me the way to the definition of in-air excellence, far beyond the EK and EY products and service. I avoid US carriers at all costs.

  19. His comments were totally inappropriate and rude.

    Does QA provide a superior service and excellent product? Yes, but there is no need to be a bully.

  20. You are losing steam, Akbar. Your comment may not have been P.C. but it was so accurate !
    I am disappointed. It is so refreshing to hear the obvious truth instead of sterilized speech.

    Has Delta apologized for its diatribe (by a bad acresss wearing a DL uniform) against, among others, QR?

    Keep shaking the industry… God knows it needs it.

  21. You are losing steam, Akbar. Your comment may not have been P.C. but it was so accurate !
    I am disappointed. It is so refreshing to hear the obvious truth instead of sterilized speech.

    Has Delta apologized for its diatribe (by a bad actress wearing a DL uniform) against, among others, QR?

    Keep shaking the industry… God knows it needs it.

  22. Blah blah blah blah fucking blah America. Take a good look at yourselves you wankers before you start criticizing others. How many people shot down in Chicago this year? Over 2000? In the very home of the Black President no less. Take that issue on folks instead of worrying about what the worlds No 1 airline is doing. Uppercut time, all of you, give yourselves an almighty one each.

  23. Akbar does not strike me as the type to apologize for outlandish remarks, particularly with the number of them he has made over the years. I suspect this isnt coming from him, but rather pressure from his PR department or finance team – as in, “we’re trying to buy a bigger stake in this airline, and you’ve just gone and ticked off everybody with that comment. Can you tone it down a bit?”

  24. Okay, Mr Akbar doesn’t hold back, but if you look at the underlying issues he is discussing, I am very much in agreement on the distaste for the US carriers including the flight attendants who are “the face of the airline”

    It’s true about the “grandma/grandpa” factor on the US Carriers
    -> Because of union rules they can take all the longhaul routes (Emirates mandates that air crews do a mix of longhaul and shorter haul so that crews don’t get “burned” out). No matter how many hours you have put in the air flights > 10 hours take a toll on the human body
    -> Some of these older flight attendants would never be able to pass/re-certify safety procedures (opening doors, deploying life rafts, helping people off the plane and even treading water). Some can hardly walk, look like hell toward the end of the long flights, so it’s no great surprise they can be surly and forget who is paying their salary
    -> Antiquated union rules and airline management’s reluctance to negotiate away protections for flight attendants due to seniority promotes all the bad behavior from poor service and all the incidents we have seen with passengers being mistreated, abused and most often don’t care attitude about addressing a customer’s issue and/or diffusing the situation

    So, absolutely Mr Bakr’s comments although a little out of line speaks the truth and it’s high time US carriers go “back to basics” and hold union employees accountable for delivering poor or no service

  25. His apology doesn’t make his original comment any less true or factually correct.

    Why do people chose to take offense at the truth so easily these days ?

    Flame me all you like – I won’t be reading back on this thread anyway.

    Go on tell everybody else how proud of your ridiculous PC-ness you are 😉

  26. Qatar and Saudi Arabian Airlines are both one in the same. The only thing that’s changed is that Qatar began issuing tourist Visas where as SA does not. So in efforts of trying to compete with Emirates, they joined the battle to usher in awards for service and comfort. However both these airlines are run and operated by internal government run offices that are all operated by men and both function under the veil of Wahhabist Sharia laws that both subjugate women and non Muslims. There is no conspiracies here per say but there is an underlying effort to influence the Western world meanwhile both companies are led by Wahhabist extremists tied to funding the Islamic State movement. Recently SA is claiming to have distanced themselves from this and pointing the finger at Qatar and spearheaded efforts of shutting down the surrounding air space which in order to crumble the economic climate in Qatar, a tiny nation that SA wants desperately to control or absorb back into its own territory. The Emirates differ from the as they have been distancing themselves from Wahhabism where as that radical sect is the majority religion in SA and the official religion of Saudi Arabia. Both Qatar and SA have been funding ISIS for many years. It’s time the West bans both those carriers.

  27. You are just a dirty old man that has no respect for the young women you employ! Take a look at yourself and see just how old and ugly you look to others! Your opology is insincere and a result of the critism that you have received pertaining to your ugly comment. You thought you were being funny, well, now you see just what others really think about you!

    Think about getting a hair implant and plastic surgery before you go running after those beautiful young women because they will only use you for your money and not for a long time!

  28. Akbar, might be colourful, he talks too much, he talks lots of nonsense. But to be fair, he is definitely among one of the most hardworking, competent and committed airline CEO’s, who wants the best for is airline. So be fair to him, even if you hate him!

  29. Without being disrespectful like Mr. Akbar or his country, nationality or business but those words were ignorant, damaging and completely unprofessional. Has he actually seen some of those “grandmas?” Some of those “grandmas” are responsive, caring, strong, patient and risk their lives everyday on those flights. Not to mention that American airlines do have more than “grandmas.” Americans airlines have/offer diversity (women, men of different race, ethnicity, LGBT and more) and there is a genuine attempt for progress, professionalism and respect with these airlines. Seriously, I am disgusted and will NEVER EVER get on Qatar Airways even if I was paid by Mr. Akbar himself. You lost a very important customer Mr. Akbar.

  30. I note that nobody has apologised to the grandmothers used as a disparaging description….the women whose wisdom, love and nurture are the mainstay of generations of people in every country of the world….how dare their name be thus used? You should be ashamed of yourselves with your empty , superficial values…..Very badly done……..
    Remember, if you are lucky, you will all one day be grandparents..I fear you will not have the empathy, respect or kindness to be good ones who set a moral example for the younger generation.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *