Sydney: Qatar Airways’s board Chairman has apologized for his remark that a woman could not run his airline, saying his comment was taken out of context, media reports said.
Akbar Al Baker made the initial remark at an annual meeting in Sydney of the International Air Transport Association, an industry group made up of major airlines including big US carriers, Efe reported.
“Of course it has to be led by a man, because it is a very challenging position,” Al Baker said, in an audio recording of the Tuesday press conference that was posted to Twitter.
He apologized but said the media took the comment out of context.
Al Baker is the group’s new board Chairman and the meeting in Sydney attracted some 1,000 attendees.
On Wednesday, at a separate conference in Sydney run by market-intelligence firm Centre for Aviation, Al Baker said he didn’t mean he “would discourage any woman to come and take my position.”
He said, “It was just a joke, everybody laughed and I thought that was the end of the story.”
Qatar Airways says 44 per cent of its workforce are female. Al Baker said he supports efforts to bring a woman in to lead Air Italy, in which the Middle Eastern carrier owns a stake.
But many parts of the aviation industry are still dominated by men. The International Society of Women Airline Pilots says not even 5 per cent of airline aviators are women.
A 2015 Centre for Aviation study found 94 per cent of airlines are led by men. The new 31-member governing board of IATA has just two female members.
Some airline executives at the Wednesday event agreed with Al Baker that his comments were blown out of proportion, but said they recognized the need for more women to get involved in the industry.
Martin Gauss, Chief Executive of Latvian airline airBaltic, said the industry must make it clear to young women that having a career as a pilot is a possibility.
Still, no women spoke on a half-day of panels at the Centre for Aviation event on Wednesday, a report in Dow Jones said.