Qatar Airways CEO: On “Crap American Carriers” You’ll “Always Be Served By Grandmothers”

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker is perhaps the most colorful man in aviation with a bit of a history of a truth problem. He makes bold and brash claims, he’s a salesman, and only once in awhile those claims wind up backed up by reality such as his airline’s new business class which is the best in the world.

Sometimes he’s his own worst enemy, such as when he declared Qatar would launch Atlanta service “for spite.” (Rival Delta, which blamed his airline for 9/11, can be equally spiteful and even more petty.)

He’s declared that Delta flies ‘crap airplanes’ (Delta certainly has a much older fleet than… most) and that his airline’s critics “are just sitting and smelling glue.”

Qatar Airways A380 Business Class Bar

Now speaking at an event to celebrate new Dublin – Doha service Akbar al-Baker was videotaped declaring “there is no need for you to travel on these crap American carriers” although what’s strange about that remark is that no one is going to fly Dublin – Doha – U.S. So it was really just a dig at the U.S. airlines unrelated to this new route.

He also declared that since the average age of flight attendants ‘is 26’ his airline compares favorably to U.S. airlines where “you will always be served by grandmothers.”

That won’t help him get the required approval of the American Airlines board to go above 4.75% ownership of the U.S. airline’s stock — especially since the focus of American’s management seems to be placating its employees (although they’ll have to spend a lot of money papering any decision to turn down the request, perhaps focusing on clawback of tax loss carry forwards, since it would also harm shareholders).

Watch Akbar al-Baker Get ‘Colorful’ Here:

He’s just feeding into the false narrative Delta offers whenever he opens his mouth.

(HT: @cjmcginnis)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Not all of us. On long international flights, some of the best front cabin service I’ve had has been from “seasoned” flight attendants who know what they’re doing with no fuss and no muss.

  2. “He makes bold and brash claims, he’s a salesman, and only once in awhile those claims wind up backed up by reality ”
    Gee, Gary, at first I though you were writing about that other salesman, Trump.

  3. The only people objecting to be served by older flight attendants are sexist pigs who think that the service industry should just be women who are there for eye candy. Unfortunately, the male dominance of the frequent traveler community means that a lot of you out there are exactly that kind of person. Please go back to the 1950s when you were born.

  4. Some time ago, I was checking in into an airport hotel, in Europe. An Emirates flight crew was also checking in. All the flight attendants looked like in the movies from the 1960s – young and beautiful, good looking uniforms etc. The next day I flew Delta, coincidentally! Let’s just say that the age (and the girth) of the flight attendants was at the opposite end of the spectrum 🙂

    However, if you’re more interested in the actual service and in the flight attendants being treated fairly by their employer, for their hard work and for the fact that they’re spending so much time away from their loved ones, I’d say fly Delta …

  5. @Ray. It’s very ageist suggesting that people born in the 50s or earlier are the only ones who want to be served by FAs who still maintain enthusiasm for their job and the fitness to do it properly. Perhaps you should first smite the beam in your own eye.

  6. When your company is owned by a misogynistic government, you can make misogynistic comments. When said company has good business class, bloggers won’t call out said misogynistic comments as such.
    The failure to say that (1) this is misogynistic and (2) demonstrably false, as any industry expert should be able to quickly pull the statistics that show the gender and age diversity of the profession, is a shame. ( Median age in 2015 was 46 and 25% male.)
    Yes, you suggested many things he says are false, but you didn’t explicitly say this was. And your readers seem to think this was a true statement.

  7. When motivated, the so called grandmas know service and are able to deliver a consistent product. Many of them lament the poor tools that they are given to work with by the carriers they serve.

    Qatar has new aircraft and good food served by young and often inexperienced cabin crews that lead to an extremely wide variance in service that ranges from extraordinary to awful.

  8. @Ray I was with you till you displayed your own ridiculous ageism which somewhat mirrored that of El Baker. You kind of shot yourself in both feet there.

  9. Sometimes the truth hurts. Reminds me of the waddling Trumpanzees who voted to bring back the buggy whip industries so they can have jobs since they’re dumb as rocks unless it’s a job that causes cancer. They constantly mouth off about how great US health care is so they don’t want socialism. Then the entire laid-off coal industry got Obamacare and 70+% started getting treated for black lung disease for the first time, but still are too dumb to see their GOP reps and Orange baboon are trying to take it away. They will tell you loudly about how everyone comes from other countries to get our health care, which causes Canadians to laugh hilariously at the idea they’d come here and pay for care they get free and for better quality there, paying half what we do for overall health care. These numbnuts have never even been out of their holler but they are world experts on socialism’s evils, as they collect their Social Security, Medicare and now get black lung treatments that saved their lives courtesy of Obama and Democrats they call names. The world agrees there are no stupider people on earth, they have utterly ruined the US.

  10. Adam, get over your self. You write…

    “The failure to say that (1) this is misogynistic and (2) demonstrably false, as any industry expert should be able to quickly pull the statistics that show the gender and age diversity of the profession, is a shame. ( Median age in 2015 was 46 and 25% male.)”

    1) The desire to be surrounded by younger women is not misogynistic — a term of which you clearly do not know the definition! But keep throwing around the latest trendy term!

    2) In the U.S., flight attends get long-haul (international) routes by seniority. So the median age of U.S. flight attendants working those routes is far beyond 46.

  11. Sad, but he is right.
    Having eye candy staff is a business advantage, its a fact.
    I personally don’t care about age but there is a correlation with a poor service.
    In many cases “grandmas” and bad service package is just symptoms of the unions.
    Correlation is not causation.

    I’d always prefer to fly Asian carriers or Aeroflot or Turkish over Delta/United/AA. And as a consumer the last thing I care about is a crew discrimination.

  12. If the first priority of FAs is our safety, then I seriously doubt that a lot of the grandmothers – and grandfathers – would be up to the task.

  13. Assuming that safety is the first priority of the cabin crews, I would rather have the grandmas and grandpas. They have been around long enough to know the safety procedures by rote rather than wasting precious seconds having to think. In an emergency, I’ll take experience over youth or beauty.

  14. Combining two thoughts:

    (1) Just finish reading the post “When Emotional Support Animals Create a Safety Hazard For the Rest of the Aircraft.” (2) I found Akbar al-Bakers comments about Grandmothers to be hilarious, so I am clearly a dog. (3) More evidence that I am a dog is that I love looking at Cathay Pacific, Singapore Air, and Aegean Airline stewardesses and one of my bucket list items is to see a Vietair bikini contest. And to paraphrase Jimmy Carter, I have sinned in my heart many times in this regard. (4) In fact, my girlfriends have all told me I am a dog. (5) I am not that well trained, or so I have been told.

    Ok, given the above, why am I allowed on a plane without an Emotional Support License?

  15. @Other Just Saying
    More often than not, you don’t need Emotional Support License. Just a claim would be sufficient for you to board the plane.

    Because grandmother are lazy. And if their supervisor scold them for not checking credentials, they scold back, “be polite to elders!”.

    Hey! Maybe a trained animal would serve better as FA?

  16. @Greg – somehow in a reply to a Qatar Airways post, you were able to turn after one brief sentence to a lengthy Anti-Trump political screed.

    I’d suggest you’re giving this guy too much rent-free space in your head. There’s more to life, you know.

    Or please tie your comments to the subject post so the nonpolitical get your point.

  17. Jerry, have you ever flown international on Quatar? I usually fly business on AA or DL. I recently flew QR JFH – DOH – SIN. The service on QR was great. If I want something in AA or DL on the middle of the night I need to go find my FA. On QR they always have one patrolling the cabin, all night. That’s just one example.The service is significantly better. The US airlines are not close.

  18. I don’t have a problem with the ‘grandmothers’ on US carriers.

    What I have a problem is the terrible service they provide, and how poorly they groom themselves. Age is irrelevant; you can still take care of your appearance and look smart and professional.

    I’m assuming when he meant ‘grandmothers’, the disheveled appearance and bad service is probably what he implied.

  19. He’s not wrong.

    Compared to the foreign carriers, the US legacy airlines do indeed have the oldest FAs in the skies. No way around that. There are multiple reasons for that, with the #1 being that they happen to be the oldest airlines still flying. That matronly-woman serving F probably was a hot 20-year-old when originally hired. She’s still flying today.

    That said, some of the best service and nicest FAs I’ve had were elderly (>65 years old). With their decades of experience, they’ve learned how to provide an excellent experience and know when various things are needed, often before the passenger realizes they need it. If you can get one of them to talk about the old days, you’ll have an amazing and entertaining flight, possibly a new friend. They’ll openly tell you that the newer aircraft (read: jet age) are superior, but corporate policies and passenger behavior’s gotten far worse. You’ll hear fun stories about their youthful indiscretions, along with the difficulties and oddities along the way.

    Some of the US carriers’ middle-age FAs seem to be burnt-out, while the 30-somethings seem to be the most prone to apathy. Give me one of the senior FAs any day over a younger one with a pissy attitude. The most beautiful woman is the one who smiles.

  20. Akbar is spot on without a hint of inhibition.
    Anecdotally, my two worst international F class experience were on AA manned by grumpy old grandmas who just refused to work.
    They were, however, very good at sitting in empty F seats while doing nothing.

  21. the word “grandmother” has very positive connotation.
    he should have said “old fat cows” instead.

  22. He also speaks the truth whether to the PC for the Americans. Well those snowflakes from CA and NY. LOL. Delta, American and UA are crap. Thy do have grannies waddling up and down the aisles. I think it’s safe to say, whether the snowflakes in the USA are upset or not, obviously the man knows how to un a successful airline. I think I just read its the Number 1 airline in the world. Again.

    So snowflakes, brush your feelings aside and listen. Oh, and get over yourself.

  23. He said it as he thinks it is; something we have been conditioned to stop doing because that is not PC.

    I enjoy gazing at the invariably attractive Emirates female cabin crew but enjoy the impeccable service attitude and professionalism of the male BA First and Business crews. Sadly the American legacy airlines crews don’t enter into it anywhere.

  24. LOL, “Snowflakes” apparently is the latest term used by the hideously fat rednecks who fit nowhere whatsoever into the modern world so are only involved to tear it down.

    Like “Benghazi” and “insert-a-gate” whenever you hear it you know it’s a know-nothing baboon parroting back what he’s taught on Faux News, which advertising demo is 70>dead.

    Think Nixon on the beach in wingtips because he’d seen Bobby Kennedy walking on the beach in Hyannis. Right wingers are largely hateful because they’re so uncool they fit in nowhere except with other reactionaries.w

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