Only a man can run an airline, says Qatar boss

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker

Set your sights elsewhere, women.

"Of course, it has to be led by a man because it is a very challenging position", Mr Al Baker said in response to a question on how the industry body will tackle the problem of gender inequality in key management positions, especially in the Middle East.

'We actually encourage women and we see that they have huge potential in. senior management positions, ' Baker said at the close of International Air Transport Association's two-day annual meeting in Sydney - during which he was anointed chairman of the global industry body. In contrast, he had said the average age of Qatar Airways cabin crews was 26 in comments criticised as both sexist and ageist. His comments were reportedly met with load groans of disapproval.

Qatar Airways' chief has sparked disbelief by saying his carrier was led by a man because "it is a very challenging position" - even as airline bosses admitted more women should be in top roles. "If we're leaving out nearly 50 percent of the population in our search for the next generation of 640,000 pilots, we're clearly not tapping into all of the talent that's available", Alan Joyce, the airline's chief executive, said in a statement past year.

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Al Baker clarified his position in an interview with Bloomberg Television's Haidi Lun after his press conference. "I think one of the reasons Qantas turned it around so dramatically is that we've embraced diversity". "I was not referring to the staff in general".

He told Bloomberg that Qatar Airways' staff is more than 33% female, with female pilots and female senior vice presidents and "there's not gender inequality in Qatar Airways".

Akbar Al Baker (centre) 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. When the IATA board posed for a group photo last week, there was just one woman among 26 airline chiefs - Christine Ourmières-Widener, CEO of United Kingdom regional carrier Flybe Group Plc. 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.

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