Qatar Airways CEO Promises To Avoid Controversy, 10 Minutes Later Makes Sexist Comment

Filed Under: Qatar

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.

Literally minutes later he commented that “of course [IATA] has to be led by a man because it is a very challenging position.”

Here’s the full audio of what he said:

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…

  1. Those who had money on 1,3,5 or 9 minutes are the most surprised. Odds are he’s confused as to why that statement was abhorrent and probably needs it explained to him…and that the person who does the explaining will be chastised and told they are an idiot.:/

  2. If he was in the USA he would be forced to resign. Glad the rest of the world doesn’t operate that way!

  3. I don’t get it. Is he saying this as a joke or did it slip and he did not mean it as a joke?

  4. They have their culture. Americans have their culture. Stop evaluating their actions through your understanding of your own culture.

  5. I don’t fly his airline. No one should just to enjoy better champagne. Lucky, I continue to be shocked that you patronize and salute these Airlines. Emirates is probably the worst when it comes to human rights. I would never spend a dollar or a point flying them.

  6. @ Ryan — I’m curious by what metric you think Emirates is the worst when it comes to human rights?

  7. Well, considering that Middle East isn’t exactly known as the bastion of human rights and the allegation that ME3 airlines are subsidized by their respective government…

  8. @CS primitive man from primitive place?? I expect from Lucky to have moderated such racist comment,qualifying a nation as primitive??
    Maybe someine like Trump is at your taste and companies tgat drag bleeding passengers,kill pets,disembark muslims is what you call a good airline.

  9. I second Mo’s comment above. It is not acceptable to insult all people of “a place” like this.

  10. You forgot Seth’s next tweets: “He eventually went on to detail the many different roles that women do serve in at QR and the list is impressive. The carrier is arguably the most progressive in the Middle East, though that’s certainly grading on a curve.”
    “But this “joke” was all sorts of awful. It is part of the systemic problem the industry faces.

    And the fact that it will simply be laughed off as AAB being himself is truly unfortunate.”

    Context is usually nice to have, although I do agree AAB’s initial joke is out of line.

  11. To quote Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum from the UAE: His famous line – “My grandfather rode a camel, my father rode a camel, I drive a Mercedes, my son drives a Land Rover, his son will drive a Land Rover, but his son will ride a camel” – reflected his concern that oil would run out within a few generations.
    That’s what Qatar and the other Gulf states are built upon. Money in the ground. No substance.

    Social development is a lot slower than financial development. I see a ton of the latter in the gulf states, almost none of the former. See the treatment of labourers, foreigners, women, gays, you name it.

  12. Debit – I normally ignore you as you’re incredibly weird, but plenty of people hold this same view.

    Whether something is culturally acceptable or not is irrelevant as to whether it is right or not.

  13. @ CS
    “Social development is a lot slower than financial development”

    Well, of course it is. The US has been in existence as an independent state for roughly 250 years: it spent the first century as a slave state; the second century as one of the world’s most vicious apartheid states; and only in the last half century or so has it edged hesitatingly towards being a civil rights state (which I’d characterise as “two steps forward, one step back” – check out the Supreme Court’s latest ruling on the gay wedding cake case).

    A couple of decades ago Qatar was one of the world’s poorest countries. You expect it to do in a couple of decades what took the US more than two centuries?

    None of which is to excuse human rights abuses, etc. Merely to suggest that you think about where we all are in a historical context.

  14. @ callum

    “Whether something is culturally acceptable or not is irrelevant as to whether it is right or not.”

    Looking at human societies since we first came into existence, I’m not sure there are any human universals when it comes to right or wrong, beyond the golden rule of “do as you would be done by”.

    Though I’m sympethetic to your view: for example, I look at the US enthusiasm for infant genital mutiliation with horror (the fact that it seems largely to be practised on boys rather girls is of zero significance to me). I have the same view when looking at identical practices in the Middle East and Africa. I’m sure, to those cultures, what they do is absolutely normal, and it is me and the effete western Europeans who are bizarre in our behaviour.

    Culture is tricky.

  15. @ The nice Paul

    I totally agree with your statement. These US citizens think highly of themselves. Remember Jim Crow? How white actors would act black stereotypes? Sickening. Look at the mirror before judging another person, you dumb fools!

  16. This isn’t about particular cultures or nationalities.

    We’re all human beings, race is a construct of bigotry, we’re all made of the same stuff and someone who has been tasked with representing an international body has shown that they are grossly incapable of understanding this.

    The only reasonable action is for him to resign.

  17. @ thenicepaul, SCOTUS made the correct decision with regards to the gay wedding cake. Read the actual decision (rather than sensationalist headlines) and try to understand where they are coming from.

  18. Whatever the culture in Qatar, this would be a horrible thing to say. But I think he had to have been joking. I listened to the audio, but it’s cut off before we hear what he says next. I’d like to hear the whole audio, or better yet, see a video. When he said it, was he smiling? Was it clear that he was joking? Even if it is a joke, it is in bad taste, but I’d like to know the full context before reserving judgment. If anyone has a full audio or full video, please post it.

  19. All of these comments about human and LGBT rights but nothing like it on news about the Maldives, Aeroflot, Jet Airways, Air India etc. All represent a country with no or hardly any LGBT rights. Why always attack the Gulf carriers for this? Most people going from India to the Middle East still tend to be better off there than in India…

  20. “SCOTUS made the correct decision with regards to the gay wedding cake.”

    Yeah, they allowed and empowered assholes to use religion to justify their bigotry and hatred.

  21. @ George

    I understand precisely where SCOTUS is coming from – because this case is an almost perfect copy of another gay cake case that started in Northern Ireland and was resolved in the UK Supreme Court. The UKSC prioritised gay equality for customers over religious rights of small business owners in the provision of public services.

    The logic of the UK court was clear: if you are going to offer a public service (as retail businesses do), then you must not discriminate against your customers on protected grounds – whether that’s gender, race, sexuality or whatever. Just as it would be illegal for a hotel to put up a sign saying “no blacks”, a business can’t refuse to serve The Gays just because they’re gay.

    If you can’t service the whole community, don’t set yourself up as a retail business.

  22. Actually I just wrote some bollocks: the NI gay cake case was resolved by the Court of Appeal in the way I stated, but while the UKSC has had a hearing it has reserved judgment in the case. We’ll find out their decision in a few weeks.

  23. Callum I never ignore you. I just dont know or care that you exist.

    As others have said what is “right” has changed over the years and between cultures. What has not changed is the smug attitude of people through these times about how right they are and how others are so wrong. In any case a view is a view and people shouldn’t be persecuted or prosecuted for it. Only actions should matter. Liberals have a really bad habit of persecuting any view that doesn’t match closely to theirs and killing any discourse or sharing of ideas. All it does is pushes people to whisper in each other’s ears and create a rumor mill running overtime generating myths that would have been easily dispelled if they had been in the open.

    Obama took the lazy out to push his policies and look where we are. Most of is policies are getting undone. Liberals should similarly try to change views instead of stifling conversations they don’t agree with. Or they will never be affect change. They are taking the lazy way out as well.

  24. “Liberals have a really bad habit of persecuting any view that doesn’t match closely to theirs and killing any discourse or sharing of ideas.”

    I find that to be true as much for conservatives as I do for liberals.

    “Obama took the lazy out to push his policies and look where we are”

    Which is where, exactly?

    “Liberals should similarly try to change views instead of stifling conversations they don’t agree with. Or they will never be affect change.”

    Gay rights, women’s rights, minority rights…mostly due to liberals.

  25. I love when people like The Nice Paul—i.e., people who didn’t go to law school and are do not know how to read statues or court decisions—try to opine on landmark SCOTUS rulings. Always makes for a remarkably entertaining show.

  26. @Debit
    “Obama took the lazy out to push his policies”
    The fact that you say this about Obama, using the word “lazy” and not about the golfer in chief is pure racism; attempting the use age-old racist stereotypes to push sexism as a “acceptable cultural practice” seems quite fitting for you. This isn’t a new idea, nor is it discourse, it’s a factless opinion used to provoke a sexist narrative.

  27. Like I said, stay smug and lose elections. Happened with Al Gore and happened with Hillary Clinton. What you think how great you are does not matter. You lost the elections every time you acted smug. Results count and you don’t have the results to show it. Just a lot of hot air and ad nauseam talk of how republicans are in danger. Deliver the results or shut up.

    Gay rights, women’s rights, bathroom rights, trans rights. They are the 1% of the liberals. A small portion of the electorate that uses most of the political capital of the democrats. Just like 1% of the republicans that use most of the political capital for their tax cuts.

    Frankly neither the liberals nor the conservatives represent the middle class anymore. They just represent small core vocal group that has nothing better to do than make a lot of noise. We need a viable third party. I always vote third party, even if i have no clue who they are.

    Obama was a lazy. The great orator and senator didn’t try to get consensus. He was great gabbing and rhetoric. Not so much at building relationships. The first year in office he started a task force under Biden about helping middle class. What happened to it? Nothing. The man was great at sound bites not so much at governance. 8 years of Obama were the biggest waste of time ever. He was great fund raising for himself not for the democrats. The biggest mandate in a generation and the house and Senate for two years and he couldn’t sustain it. What did he achieve? Half assed Obamacare that may not survive.

  28. Of all of your gas, we need look no further than this: “Half assed Obamacare that may not survive”. You think that ‘Obamacare’ was weak because of Obama?

    ” I always vote third party, even if i have no clue who they are.” Clearly, you are a mental giant.

  29. @ thenicepaul
    Private businesses should have the right to serve whoever they want. Otherwise should private, member-only clubs be forced to allow anyone in as well?

  30. @David

    Ah – so you think private clubs *should* be able to have a “no blacks” policy?

    Personally I think that’s repellent.

    Businesses operate in society. They require a licence to do so (literal or metaphoric). The price they pay for that licence is not discriminating unlawfully. They can still refuse to serve more booze to a drunk. But they can’t support a racist / sexist / homophobic state.

    Every right has limits: famously, SCOTUS was very clear that freedom of speech does not extend to shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre.

  31. @ thenicepaul

    Yes they should be allowed to have whatever abhorrent, discriminatory entry policies they want, and consumers should also be free to speak against the establishment in social media, negatively rate it and boycott said establishment. If the business is privately owned and does no business with the state, then it’s not in the states’ business to police it.

    Yelling fire in a crowded theatre has absolutely nothing to do with discrimination. It’s about causing likely bodily harm to the public.

  32. “Clearly, you are a mental giant.”

    Debit is the king of all trolls. Remember when he/she was posting as Credit?

  33. Aaron, I think I must have been home sick the day that mask was pulled off. It all makes sense now. Thanks for the info.

  34. Trump calling media fake news and liberal ding dongs resorting to ad hominem attacks.

    You both have more in common than you let on.

  35. @Justin

    “I love when people like The Nice Paul—i.e., people who didn’t go to law school and are do not know how to read statues or court decisions—try to opine on landmark SCOTUS rulings. Always makes for a remarkably entertaining show.”

    You are so sweet. *Always* happy to provide entertainment. 🙂

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