An hour with ‘His Excellency’, the controversial Qatar Airways CEO (

March 3, 2016

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker knows how to make an entrance.

Arriving 30 minutes late to a press conference celebrating the launch of the carrier’s first services between Doha and Sydney on Thursday, he is introduced to the waiting media crowd as “His Excellency”.

“I know that my airline is always creating a lot of hype wherever we go,” he said at the start of the hour-long session. “I’m sure you also know I’m a very controversial figure in the aviation industry.”

In a global industry filled with big egos, Mr Al Baker is by far the most talked-about character. At cocktail parties, stories abound about his chronic tendency to keep people waiting, his practice of quickly firing anyone who displeases him and the way his airline enforces rules viewed by most Westerners as draconian upon female cabin crew.

Outside the press conference venue, the Transport Workers Union was holding its third protest in as many weeks about the airline’s labour practices, such as requiring 12-hour enforced “rest” periods for cabin crew before each flight. The TWU is due to hold a fourth demonstration on Thursday evening outside a gala dinner for VIPs that will feature an exclusive performance by Kylie Minogue.

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Also see TWU demands government stamp out employee abuses as first Qatar flights to Sydney begin (

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