The IATA Annual General Meeting is going on in Sydney right now, which is where all kinds of top airline executives meet to discuss the state of the industry.
if you follow this industry at all then you know that Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker, is one of the most outspoken and controversial guys in the airline industry. On one hand I appreciate his openness, though on the other hand he says some pretty cringeworthy stuff.
Last August it was announced that Al Baker would become the chairman of IATA. He was chosen by his fellow board members to lead the IATA Board of Governments, and his one year term is starting this week.
Having Al Baker as chairman is a controversial decision on so many levels. Not just because of the crazy stuff he says, but also given the current blockade with Qatar, the constant controversy with Gulf carriers, etc.
Just moments ago Al Baker vowed to avoid controversial comments as the new IATA chairman.
— Adrian Schofield (@AvWeekScho) June 5, 2018
Literally minutes later he commented that “of course [IATA] has to be led by a man because it is a very challenging position.”
"Of course it has to be led by a man because it is a very challenging position,” Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al Baker on why a man and not a woman should hold the top airline job #IATAAGM – cue massive groans and boos
— Danny Lee (@JournoDannyAero) June 5, 2018
Here’s the full audio of what he said:
The audible gasp from the crowd as @qatarairways GCEO and @IATA Chairman Akbar Al Baker "jokes" only a man can be a CEO is amazing. Listen for yourself. @Qantas CEO Alan Joyce cutting him off was both good and bad, I suppose. #IATAAGM #iawa @WomenInAviation @WomenOfAviation pic.twitter.com/rrrFND3G5E
— Seth Miller (@WandrMe) June 5, 2018
Clearly he was joking (well, in the sense that he was trying to make people laugh, but maybe not in the sense of how he feels deep down), but the worst part is that he said that while responding to a question about gender equality in the airline industry (which was a big topic at the conference). You can hear the audience gasping, and then Qantas’ CEO Alan Joyce immediately cuts him off.
I was expecting his pledge to not say anything controversial to maybe last for a few hours. But less than 10 minutes? Ouch!
Al Baker has always been tone-deaf when it comes to this stuff, but you’d think he could at least control himself in the context of being the chairman of IATA. Okay, who am I kidding, of course he can’t control himself…