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Akbar Al Baker’s comments have been called out as "misogynistic and demeaning."

Stacey Leasca
July 11, 2017

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker may want to rethink his strategy for winning over his American competitors.

On Thursday, Al Baker announced that his company intends to buy shares of American Airlines if those shares are “attractively priced,” Bloomberg reported.

“We will not impose ourselves on anybody,” Al Baker said in a statement on July 5 while in Dublin to celebrate his airline’s new flight between Doha and the Irish capital city. “However our filing is very well advanced, and we hope to start buying shares on the open market soon. We want to be a strategic shareholder. We’re not telling them what to do.”

And while American Airlines CEO Doug Parker isn’t enthused by Al Baker’s investment comments, it’s another one of Al Baker’s statements that has him in a bit of hot water.

At the same event in Dublin, Al Baker told the crowd that they can expect "excellent service from our international cabin crew,” noting that the average age of his cabin crew is only 26 years old.

"There is no need to travel on those crap American carriers," Al Baker said, receiving uproarious laughter by the crowd. He added, “you know you will always be served by grandmothers” on American carriers.

Following Al Baker’s ageist remarks, Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents 50,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines, said in a statement: "Straight from Akbar Al-Baker's lips, he confirms what AFA has said all along: Qatar Airways thrives on misogyny and discrimination.” She added, "When there's an emergency onboard, a flight attendant's gender, age, weight, height, race, or sexuality simply do not matter.”

In another statement provided to Travel + Leisure, Jill Zuckman, chief spokesperson for the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, said: “Mr. Al Baker’s comments are misogynistic and demeaning, and they are offensive to the hardworking Americans that his subsidized airline is trying to put out of work. Flight attendants have battled sexism and ageism for decades, and Mr. Al Baker is trying to perpetuate these ideas to attack American jobs.”

Zuckman then called on executives at the U.S. Travel Association, FedEx, and JetBlue, who have “repeatedly defended” Al Baker to unequivocally condemn his comments and “explain to women everywhere why they want to outsource American jobs to this man.”

Moreover, Jill Surdek, vice president of flight services at American Airlines, the very company Al Baker is attempting to invest in, said in a statement: "If you're like me, you found [the remarks] incredibly offensive - it was both sexist and ageist at the same time. At American, our flight attendants are hired for their professionalism, dedication to safety, and commitment to our customers."

Surdek added that at American they love the diversity of their team and “could not be more proud of how you represent American every day. And it is because of this that we would be happy to put all of our families - including our grandmothers - on any American flight."

Al Baker has yet to respond to the criticism over his comments.

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