The head of Qatar Airways apologized on Wednesday for saying that a woman could not do his job, while global airlines pledged to speed up efforts to break down gender imbalances in aviation.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said his remarks at the closing of a global airlines gathering on Tuesday had been intended as a joke and taken out of context.
He defended his airline’s record of gender diversity, saying 44 percent of its staff were female including some in senior positions.
“Quite frankly I think the press took it out of context. They … blew it out of proportion. It was just a joke…I apologize for it,” Al Baker told a CAPA-Centre for Aviation conference in Sydney.
Asked on Tuesday about female employment among Middle East airlines and why his job as CEO could not be done by a woman, al Baker had said: “Of course it has to be led by a man because it is a very challenging position.”
He made the comments at a news conference following a meeting of airlines group International Air Transport Association (IATA), moments after being elected its chairman.
The remarks drew criticism on social media.
The issue of gender imbalance in aviation was a hot topic at the three-day annual meeting of IATA – only six of whose 280 member airlines, or 2 percent, have female chief executives.
Al Baker later said Qatar Airways was the first carrier in the Middle East to have female pilots.
On Wednesday, the director-general of IATA noted that al Baker had earlier apologized for his comments.
Source: National News Agency