At the recent annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in Sydney, at which 200 airlines were represented, the subject of ‘gender equality’ was raised. Asked about the issue among Middle East airlines in particular, and why his job as head of his country’s flag carrier couldn’t be done by a woman, outspoken Qatar Airways Chief Executive, Akbar al Baker, gave a typically provocative answer.
“Of course it has to be led by a man because it is a very challenging position,” he said, drawing gasps from those present.
The comments came minutes after Al Baker – who has a reputation for hitting out at rivals and suppliers over poor performance – had joked that one of his roles as the new chairman of IATA was to be less controversial.
He later said Qatar Airways was the first carrier in the region to have female pilots and the company had women in senior roles.
“So we actually encourage women. We see that they have huge potential in doing senior management positions,” he said.