Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker, is one of the most controversial people in the airline industry. It has actually been a while since we’ve heard a controversial soundbite from him… well, he’s back!
Al Baker’s coronavirus comments
During a recent interview, Al Baker made some controversial comments about coronavirus. He essentially claimed that there is no scientific evidence to support that coronavirus can be transmitted during the incubation period, and therefore any restrictions on aviation are just a “fear factor.” Here was his exact quote:
“During the incubation period, okay, they say that this virus still can be transmitted. There is no scientific evidence for that. So it is just, you know, a fear factor. You know, you don’t block aviation, you know, just because there is something in the air but it’s really not a scientific fact. I don’t know about it.”
Al Baker then went on to talk about how some countries have been preventing crews from entering when they’ve been to China in the past 14 days:
“For them to do what they did with the Chinese cabin crew, whoever goes into China can not now go anywhere else in these countries for the next 14 days. They don’t realize the operational impact this will would create on an airline. Suppose there was a pilot for some technical glitch was rostered to go on a flight to Australia, United States, Singapore, you know, the aircraft will get stuck with all the passengers. And what evidence you have that on every single aeroplane you don’t have three or four people with contagious disease sitting next to you?”
Here’s the interview with Al Baker in case you want to see it for yourself:
WATCH: Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker doubts the existence of #coronavirus that has already reached 126 countries and territories, infecting more than 132,000 people worldwide. Video posted by MBC reporter @Awad_alfayadh.https://t.co/zh0OBl2FWZ pic.twitter.com/gcm3eFGMOO
— Arab News (@arabnews) March 13, 2020
My take on these comments
I’m obviously no scientist/coronavirus health expert, and based on doing some Googling, it does appear like there’s some debate about the extent to which coronavirus can be spread during the incubation period.
Regardless, it’s complete hogwash to suggest that this is an attempt at creating a “fear factor.” The reality is that there’s a lot more we don’t know about coronavirus than what we do know.
There’s a difference between something that isn’t universally agreed upon scientifically, and something that is done to create a “fear factor,” and it’s ridiculous that Al Baker is suggesting that the latter is what’s going on.
Perhaps the bigger question, though, is what exactly Al Baker’s point is? He’s saying you don’t block aviation because “there is something in the air but it’s really not a scientific fact.” To what extent does he think aviation should be blocked during these times?
As far as his second quote goes, I love his suggestion that authorities trying to deal with coronavirus should be considering technical glitches in airline rostering systems when coming up with guidelines!
Al Baker is quite an outspoken guy, and says some controversial things. While he’s not going so far as to call coronavirus fake news, his suggestion that concerns over coronavirus being transmitted during the incubation period are intended to create a “fear factor” seems rather irresponsible…