Akbar Al Baker, the chief executive of Qatar Airlines, has apologized for calling U.S. flight attendants “grandmothers.”
While giving a speech in Ireland last week, the executive boasted that the average age of Qatar Airways’ cabin crew is 26, while passengers on U.S airlines are “always being served by grandmothers.” He also added that U.S. airlines were “crap.”
But on Wednesday, Al Baker walked back his statements, calling them “careless.”
“Competition among air carriers is robust. This is healthy, especially for our passengers, but our competition must remain respectful,” he wrote in a letter to the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA). “For the cabin crew serving aboard all air carriers, professionalism, skill and dedication are the qualities that matter. I was wrong to imply that other factors, like age, are relevant.”
While Sara Nelson, AFA’s president, said she accepted the apology, she first scrutinized Al Baker’s words in a previous statement.
“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,” she wrote. “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. Period.”
Jill Surdek, the vice-president of flight service for American Airlines, also criticized Al Baker’s words. According to the BBC, she called them “incredibly offensive.”