Qatar Air CEO Says a Woman Could Never Do His Job

Akbar Al Baker later defended the carrier saying it was the first Middle Eastern airline to have a female pilot and that other women were in senior roles

Qatar Airways boss says only a man could do his 'challenging' job

"I would like to offer my heartfelt apologies for any offence caused by my comment yesterday, which runs counter to my track record of expanding the role of women in leadership throughout the Qatar Airways Group and has been sensationalized by the media", Akbar al Baker said in a statement.

Following the press conference, Al Baker seemed to soften his position in an interview, albeit only to a point.

"The carrier has female pilots and female senior vice presidents".

Insisting this was not the case at his own airline, he added: "Of course it has to be led by a man, because it is a very challenging position".

Asked at Wednesday's CAPA conference whether he truly believed that only a man could do his job, Al Baker said, "No, I don't believe that".

Qatar has more than one-third female staff and has women working up to senior vice-president level, Baker claimed.

"When you have diversity, your company's results are better", she told Reuters earlier on the sidelines of the Sydney airline talks.

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The comments reportedly drew groans and gasps from those present, and Mr Baker later appeared to try to clarify his comments.

It's not the first time that the Qatar Airways boss has sparked controversy.

'So we actually encourage women. Qantas Airways Ltd.'s senior management is 40 per cent female, including the heads of the worldwide and frequent-flier loyalty businesses, CEO Alan Joyce said.

Al Baker said he wanted to have "fireworks around" to motivate people to ask questions during the press briefing, even as the room erupted with noise.

He added there was no gender inequality at the Gulf carrier, which has a close business partnership with British Airways.

Although Al Baker quickly backtracked on his comments, stating that it would be his pleasure to "have a female CEO candidate [he] could then develop to become CEO", the Twitter community did not take too kindly to the embattled airlines chief.

Only about 3 per cent of commercial pilots and fewer than 5 percent of airline chief executives are women, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations body that has been campaigning to improve gender diversity in the airline industry. The highest profile female chief executive in the industry in recent years has been Carolyn McCall, who ran the low-priced carrier easyJet before leaving to lead the British broadcaster ITV this year. "It's taken 40 years to get to 10%", he said.

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