Qatar Airways CEO apologizes for calling US flight attendants 'grandmothers'

Qatar Airways CEO apologizes for calling US flight attendants 'grandmothers'
© Getty Images

The head of Qatar Airways has apologized for mocking the age of American flight attendants following outcry from the U.S. airline industry.

Akbar al Baker called American air carriers “crap” and said their flight attendants were all “grandmothers” during a launch event last week to celebrate a new flight route between Doha and Dublin, according to a video that was recently posted online by an Irish travel publication.

The CEO said in a statement on Wednesday that his comments, which “were made informally at a private gala dinner,” were not meant to be offensive.

ADVERTISEMENT
“I should like to apologize unreservedly to those offended by my recent remarks which compared Qatar Airways cabin crew with cabin crew on U.S. carriers,” al Baker said. “Cabin crew are the public face of all airlines, and I greatly respect their hard work and professionalism. They play a huge role in the safety and comfort of passengers, irrespective of their age or gender or familial status.”

But al Baker also noted that “this is a time of strong rivalry between our airline and the US carriers, and we are of course immensely proud of our own cabin crew.”

In the video, al Baker says "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 know you are always being served by grandmothers on American airlines."

The comments, which came to light days after Qatar Airways said it was interested in buying up to 10 percent of American Airlines’ shares, have sparked intense backlash across the U.S. aviation community.

The Association of Flight Attendants accused the Gulf air carrier of “misogyny and discrimination.”

“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,” said AFA President Sara Nelson in statement. “If you prop up Qatar Airways, you are supporting sexism, racism, and ageism. Period.”