Qatar’s CEO given ‘Man of the Year’ award by CAPA, but some in the industry are querying the accolade.
It has been announced that Akbar Al-Baker, the CEO of Qatar Airways, has been given a ‘Man of the Year’ award by CAPA, an Australian-based aviation research company. The award comes just months after Al-Baker’s failed bid for American Airlines and, perhaps more notably, after his controversial remarks regarding American flight attendants.
Speaking rather unfavorably of U.S. female cabin crew members at-large, he described them as “grandmothers” at an event in Dublin in July, before adding that “the average age of my cabin crew is only 26 years.” His remarks caused an uproar at the time and Al-Baker subsequently apologized.
In an statement as quoted by Forbes, CAPA said that Al-Baker’s award was given on the basis of his “individual influence on the aviation industry.” CAPA is referring to the carrier’s role in airlifting much-needed supplies into the country during the nation’s on-going diplomatic crisis, which has seen many neighboring countries close their airspace to the Gulf state.
In CAPA’s official statement, which was issued this week at a summit in Singapore, Peter Harbison, the company’s executive chairman, said, “Akbar al-Baker has not let Qatar Airways lose its shine during one of its most testing years. Under his guidance, the airline has recalibrated its network to function without access to several neighboring countries.”
Despite his apology and the passing of several months, Al-Baker’s comments haven’t been forgotten and some are querying the awarding of this latest accolade.
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, offered her insight, saying, “If by ‘greatest influence’ they mean breeding contempt of women, aging workers and international aviation agreements, then he’s clearly the winner.”