Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker apologized "unreservedly" for his unflattering description of USA flight attendants as grandmothers, a day after the remarks touched off a firestorm of criticism from labor unions and American Airlines Group. During a speech, the Qatar chief noted that his airline's flights attendants average just 26 years of age, "so there is no need for you to travel on these crap American carriers", he said.
Qatar's chief executive Akbar al-Baker said last week that the airline would continue with its plans to buy up to a 4.75 percent stake in American, despite opposition from the USA carrier.
Qatar Airways said in June it wanted to buy as much as a 10 percent stake in American Airlines, which caught the United States carrier by surprise.
The informal comments at a private gala dinner in Dublin were "in no way" meant to cause offence, Sheik Al Baker said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
American's vice president of flight service described the comments as "incredibly offensive" in a message to employees on Tuesday, according to Bloomberg. "However, cabin crews are the public face of all airlines, and I greatly respect their hard work and professionalism".
American notified Doha-based Qatar Airways and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad of its decision on June 29 to end the "codeshare" partnership - the sharing of a flight by two carriers. "I have a high regard for the value that I see long-serving staff members bringing through their experience and dedication".
American Airlines is ending its codeshare relationships with Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways as a protest against what it alleges to be government subsidies of the major Gulf carriers. The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents pilots at Delta and other big airlines, called for an apology. American chief executive Doug Parker has called that plan "puzzling".
US carriers say the alleged subsidies distort the air travel market and could threaten American jobs. "Sheik Al Baker is a well-educated man, and I think it's corporate damage control".