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Qatar Airways CEO Pisses Off Most Of Airline Industry With Comments; Delta Responds

What’s Got Your Flight Attendants Talking Among Themselves? Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker’s Big Mouth Is What!

Qatar Airways has been even more controversial than usual recently. Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker is evidently quite proud of the fact that his airline employs flight attendants who average (only) 26 years of age. What Al Baker doesn’t mention is that a cabin crew averaging 26 years of age cannot possibly possess the skills or experience a cabin crew really should have to ensure passenger safety and service. Qatar Airways crews are also grossly underpaid when compared to cabin crews working for other airlines. Qatar Airways achieves this young average cabin crew age at least in part by hiring young and inexperienced “talent” and then releasing said talent after only a few years on the job. They can do this because the cabin crews are not hired as employees but as contractors. And for other reasons we’ll get into later. But they are hired and released early to keep the cabin crews young.

Original Al Baker comments (uploaded by Travelextra Ireland)

I spoke with a flight attendant (and friend) who has been serving drinks and dealing with passengers with American Airlines for 30 years. Of course she does much more than that, but for all you perspective fans out there that means essentially that my friend has more experience than some, perhaps even many, of the entire cabin crews working for Qatar Airways. All by her experienced, capable, and talented self. And don’t fool yourselves- experience, capability, and talent count. Perhaps not at Qatar Airways, but ask yourself what’s more important- how smoothly your flight crew handles their essential tasks on your flight, or how they look while they perform them? With experience comes perspective, and my experienced friend shared some of that perspective with unsuspecting me.

Delta Airlines Response to Al Baker’s comments (uploaded by Canal Plus Finance)

Some of the deltas (pun intended) between American and many other international carriers and Qatar Airways stem from cultural differences. I am told that the contract rates of those contractors who work flights for Qatar Airways and the other ME3 carriers (Etihad and Emirates) are ridiculously low. That’s the culture of the region working against the flight attendants at least to some degree. Couple that with the likelihood of said flight attendants being kicked to the curb just when they reach true competency would seem to be extremely bad business, but who’s protesting or posting rants on social media about that? If it weren’t for Al Baker’s comments in Dublin the rest of the world might not even know about it.

Partnership for Open & Fair Skies Response to Al Baker’s comments (uploaded by Partnership for Open & Fair Skies)

About Al Baker

He’s been making sensationalist comments about the world’s airlines for quite some time now. The man has talked about rubbing salt in airline “wounds” when he inaugurates a new Qatar Airways destination for some time now. Delta got the salt when he started flying into Atlanta; Lufthansa when Qatar Airways began flying into Frankfurt. Al Baker has also said that missing out on their play for Miami as another destination wasn’t a blow.  He sounds like a blowhard when he perceives a win and a sore loser when he doesn’t get his way, doesn’t he? Now Al Baker’s rhetoric and manipulation are not unique to Al Baker, or Qatar Airways, or the region, or the ME3, or any industry. There are people like him running businesses in many industries. But would you trust him? Can you trust him?

Photo Credit: Tomas Del Coro

Qatar Airways is a member of the oneworld Alliance. The oneworld Alliance members are AirBerlin (Germany), American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair (Finland), Iberia (Spain), Japan Airlines, LATAM (Latin America), Qatar Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas (Australia), Sri Lankan Airlines, Royal Jordanian Airlines, and S7 Airlines (Russia). These airlines have agreed to do more than paint the same logo on their equipment and share some codes but the details aren’t really pertinent here. What is extremely pertinent is what could be, and is believed by many to be, Al Baker’s master plan.

Photo courtesy OneWorld Alliance

American Airlines is a publicly traded company. Anyone can buy their stock. Including Al Baker. In what would seem to a simpleton like me to be an extremely audacious move, it is not inconceivable that Al Baker, the CEO of one airline, could acquire 4.75 percent of the stock in a different airline. That 4.75 percent of the other airline would land him on the Board of Directors of American Airlines…one of those airlines he himself says are “crap American carriers” and a member of the same “alliance!” What has flight attendants and airline industry people concerned is that were Al Baker to land on the Board at AA, he would then be in a position to make comments that people cannot just ignore or dismiss as misogynist rantings. He could potentially force concessions by the flight attendants working not only in the airliners flying in American Airlines colors but many other American and world carriers as well. The unions would of course fight tooth and nail to keep Al Baker from forcing concessions by the flight attendants, but it would be a truly ugly fight that should, it seems at least to me, be avoided at all costs. So far at least it appears there has been no move by Al Baker to acquire the necessary stock needed to buy a chair in the AA Boardroom.

Photo Credit: Kambui

Doesn’t this all sound like something nobody should do? Like something that should be illegal, and if not in point of law illegal, then at least preventable? Here’s the thing, and this is not unique to Al Baker, or Qatar Airways, or the region, or the ME3, or any industry either. Just because a person, in this particular case Al Baker, can do something that does not mean he should do that something. Qatar Airways, along with the other ME3 airlines, is considered by many paying passengers to be a step up from even the most prestigious airlines not only based in the United States but the rest of the planet. However, the subsidies and financial backing received by the ME3 from the governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates violates existing Open Skies world aviation agreements. We do know that what’s going on behind the scenes at Al Baker’s airline is changing people’s opinions and perspectives. So is his inflammatory rhetoric.

Photo Credit: Tomas Del Coro

Delta Airlines, one of the “crap” American carriers mentioned by Al Baker during his comments in Dublin, posted a video response to his comments. So too did the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies. We have included links to all three videos in this piece, and all three are equally deserving of your attention, albeit for different reasons. And we would like to hear from you Avgeekery Nation! What’s going on in Akbar Al Baker’s noggin anyway? He’s got to know American laws won’t allow him to fly Qatar Airways flights within our borders…doesn’t he? If he’s really trying to influence American Airlines and other American carriers from afar wouldn’t that be transparent enough that everyone would see right through it?

Screenshot courtesy Travelextra Ireland

It was reported recently that Qatar Airways wants to buy $808 million worth of American Airlines stock. Why? Is Akbar Al Baker really just disrupting an industry that’s grown weary of the status quo and burdened by questionable service, overcrowded planes, and tired equipment? Or is his airline categorically stepping over laws and ethical standards to win at any and all costs? And can someone please tell me what difference it makes how old (read experienced) your flight attendant is if your drink isn’t what you asked for? Were you offended by his comments? Was his released apology for his remarks enough? Or should we all just get over our righteous indignation and keep grinding? What do you think?

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Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.

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