Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker is apologizing for referring to U.S. airline flight attendants as "grandmothers."
At a gala in Dublin, Ireland last week to celebrate Qatar Airways' launch of its Dublin-Doha route, Al Baker told the audience that “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,” Al Baker said. “You know you’re always being served by grandmothers on American carriers.”
Qatar Airways operates flights from Atlanta to Doha.
On Tuesday, the Air Line Pilots Association, a union that represents pilots at Delta Air Lines and other major airlines, said Al Baker “owes U.S. airline workers an apology.” Delta's senior vice president of in-flight service called Al Baker's remarks "rude, misogynistic comments."
On Wednesday, a communications firm representing Qatar Airways released a written statement from Al Baker saying:
“I should like to apologise unreservedly to those offended by my recent remarks which compared Qatar Airways cabin crew with cabin crew on US carriers."
According to Al Baker, the remarks "were made informally at a private gala dinner, following comments about the Qatar Airways cabin service, and were in no way intended to cause offence."
He added that flight attendants "play a huge role in the safety and comfort of passengers, irrespective of their age or gender or familial status.... I have a high regard for the value that I see long-serving staff members bringing through their experience and dedication.”
The comments by Al Baker and the response from unions and from Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines come amid a battle between U.S. airlines and Middle Eastern carriers over what U.S. carriers argue is an uneven playing field.
When Qatar Airways launched its Atlanta-Doha flights last year, it sparked a dispute with Delta over a gate at the airport and prompted Delta to withdraw its sponsorship of the Fox Theatre, which hosted a gala for Qatar Airways.