Qatar Air CEO Says a Woman Could Never Do His Job

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker and Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce attend a press conference at the International Air Transport Association annual meeting in Sydney

Set your sights elsewhere, women.

"Of course it has to be led by a man, because it is a very challenging position".

Qatar Airways" chief sparked disbelief on Tuesday 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.

Qatar Airways has been blocked from flying to 18 cities in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt since June 2017 when those countries cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism.

His comments met with loud groans of disapproval from many journalists in the room.

The comments contrast with efforts by some rivals to push up female representation at the upper echelons.

SkyTeam appointed Delta executive Kristin Colvile as chief executive of the airline alliance earlier this month.

Mr Joyce went on to say that airlines who are not looking to tap into diversity will be "disadvantaged" and stressed the importance of balance not just in gender but also race.

Al Baker attempted to clarify his comments in an interview with Bloomberg after the press conference.

"I think it's all going to come from the leadership commitment to ingrain that change throughout the organization", she said, speaking at an event focused on gender equality in the sector at the meeting in Sydney. "I was not referring to the staff in general".

The organisation now has just two female CEOs on its 31-member board - Christine Ourmieres-Widener of British budget airline Flybe and Air Europa's Maria Jose Hidalgo Gutierrez, who was added on Tuesday.

He said Qatar Airways was the first carrier in the Middle East to have female pilots and that the company had women in senior roles.

Asked whether he'd welcome a female executive as CEO, Al Baker said: "It will be my pleasure to have a female CEO candidate I could then develop to become CEO after me". 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.

Gender equality in the notoriously male-dominated airline industry was a big theme at the IATA annual meeting.

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