Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker bragged about how young his flight attendants were and disparaged American Airlines for hiring "grandmothers" during a speech in Dublin, Ireland, on July 5 (video below).
Al Baker was celebrating a new flight route between Dublin and Doha, Qatar, when he let his comment fly, notes Travel + Leisure: "By the way, the average age of my cabin crew is only 26 years. So there is no need for you to travel on these crap American carriers. … You’re always being served by grandmothers on American airlines."
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), fired back in a statement, notes Fox News:
Straight from Akbar Al Baker lips, he confirms what AFA has said all along: Qatar Airways thrives on misogyny and discrimination. Qatar is not only seeking to choke out U.S. Aviation, but also the 300,000 good jobs built through opportunity created on the principle of equality.
There is no room for a separation of humanity in air travel or in an emergency. Flight Attendants are onboard to save lives and every life counts. If you prop up Qatar Airways you are supporting sexism, racism, and ageism.
Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) President Capt. Tim Canoll also slammed Baker's comments on the group's website:
The head of Qatar Airways sunk to a new low recently when he disparaged hard-working U.S. crewmembers and airlines that represent $1.5 trillion in economic activity. Akbar Al Baker’s sexist and degrading remarks are an affront to our core values as a country, and he owes U.S. airline workers an apology.
Canoll added that "there will likely be no economic ramifications for his insults" because Qatar Airways is funded by the Qatar government, and doesn't have to compete in the free market like other airlines.
Jill Zuckman, spokesperson for the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, also condemned the remarks, notes Travel + Leisure: "Mr. Al Baker’s comments are misogynistic and demeaning, and they are offensive to the hardworking Americans that his subsidized airline is trying to put out of work. Flight attendants have battled sexism and ageism for decades, and Mr. Al Baker is trying to perpetuate these ideas to attack American jobs."
Jill Surdek, vice president of flight services at American Airlines, also responded: "If you're like me, you found [the remarks] incredibly offensive -- it was both sexist and ageist at the same time. At American, our flight attendants are hired for their professionalism, dedication to safety, and commitment to our customers."
Surdek also praised her diverse employees, whom she said she was proud of and that they "represent American every day."
"And it is because of this that we would be happy to put all of our families -- including our grandmothers -- on any American flight."
Al Baker and Qatar Airways have not responded to the massive condemnation.