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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Qatar Airways' Al Baker 'sorry' for sexist comments

Carrier's chief executive apologises after slating US air crew

Qatar Airways chief Akbar Al Baker has apologised for his remarks. Ian Langsdon / EPA
Qatar Airways chief Akbar Al Baker has apologised for his remarks. Ian Langsdon / EPA

Qatar Airways' chief executive Akbar Al Baker has apologised “unreservedly” for his unflattering description of US flight attendants as grandmothers, a day after the remarks touched off a firestorm of criticism from labour unions and American Airlines.

The informal comments at a private gala dinner in Dublin were “in no way” intended to cause offence, Mr Al Baker said. In his comments he had said “you are always being served by grandmothers” on US airlines, adding that the average age of Qatar Airways cabin crews was 26. American called the earlier remarks “both sexist and ageist” in a message to employees.

“Cabin crew are the public face of all airlines, and I greatly respect their hard work and professionalism,” Mr Al Baker said in his apology. “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.”

The comments came amid an intensifying feud between Qatar Airways and American, which began last month with the disclosure that the Arabian Gulf carrier wanted to buy a stake of as much as 10 per cent in the U.S. company. The American chief executive Doug Parker has called the proposal “puzzling.”