In June, al-Baker had launched a bid for American Airlines. The bid was botched – the remark about flight attendants was not helpful – and it was withdrawn in August. American subsequently ended a codeshare deal with Qatar.
On Tuesday, speaking at a CAPA aviation conference in Singapore, al-Baker said, “When my staff make the airline [earn a profit], they get a share of the profit and the same should be done by these three American carriers,” according to CNBC. In fact, American, Delta and United already offer profit sharing to their employees.
Also Tuesday, CAPA – an aviation research organization based in Sydney, Australia – named al-Baker aviation executive of the year.
“Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar al- Baker, wins award for greatest individual influence on the aviation industry,” CAPA said in a prepared statement.
This raises a question: How does a person become “man of the year” during a year in which he made widely reported sexist, ageist and untruthful remarks?
One answer comes from Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants: “If by 'greatest influence' they mean breeding contempt of women, aging workers and international aviation agreements, then he's clearly the winner,” Nelson said.
Speaking in Dublin at a July celebration of the launch of Qatar Airways' Doha-Dublin service, al-Baker referred to the "excellent service from our international cabin crew," adding, "By the way, the average age of my cabin crew is only 26 years.
“You know you are being served by grandmothers on American airlines," he added. He later apologized.
It is worth saying that CAPA’s research is respected and that in June, al-Baker was transformed into a blockade runner as Qatar Airways began flying needed supplies into its country after four neighboring countries closed their air space to flights into Qatar.
“Akbar al-Baker has not let Qatar Airways lose its shine during one of its most testing years,” said Peter Harbison, CAPA executive chairman, in CAPA’s statement. “Under his guidance, the airline has recalibrated its network to function without access to several neighboring countries.”
The award “recognizes Mr. al-Baker’s influence on the aviation industry, demonstrating outstanding strategic thinking and innovative direction in shepherding the growth of Qatar Airways’ business and the wider aviation industry,” CAPA said in a prepared statement.
Nevertheless, for several years, Qatar has been in the middle of a battle over whether three heavily subsidized Middle East airlines should be permitted to expand rapidly in the U.S. in violation of Open Skies agreements.
In this battle, American, Delta, and United, who are asking that the U.S. government enforce the agreements, are battling not only Qatar Airways, but also Emirates and Etihad, two carriers from the United Arab Emirates.
“If al-Baker could achieve all those accolades without illegal subsidies, that would be award-worthy,” said Dennis Tajer, spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American Airlines pilots.
“Until then, this award is akin to honoring a steroid-ladened baseball team playing with corked bats,” Tajer said. “It would be almost comical if it wasn't for the grave risk to American families' jobs that these illegally subsidized Middle East airlines represent.”
Understood: Running an ugly, immoral blockade in order to deliver food and supplies is admirable.
Much of the rest of al-Baker’s resume is not.
(Ted Reed - Forbes)