Despite more than 250 cases of the coronavirus in his own country, the CEO of Qatar Airways questioned the seriousness of the virus and the reaction by the aviation community.
"During the incubation period, OK, they say that this virus still can be transmitted. There is no scientific evidence for that. So it is just, you know, a fear factor," Akbar Al Baker said recently, one of the few-if not the only-members of the industry to express reservations about the validity of the virus.
Now known as COVID-19, the virus has infected more than 130,000 people worldwide and has killed almost 5,000. In Qatar, host of soccer's 2022 World Cup, it was announced last week that there were 238 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total in the country to 262.
Al Baker questioned why travel restrictions, including President Trump's travel ban on European countries, needed to be put into place.
"You know, you don't block aviation, you know, just because there is something in the air but it's really not a scientific fact. I don't know about it," Al Baker said.
It's not the first time Al Baker has made controversial comments. The CEO routinely ridiculed his U.S. counterparts when United, Delta and American claimed that Middle East carriers Qatar, Emirates and Etihad airlines were receiving unfair government subsidies. He also said women were not suitable to run an airline because it is "a challenging position."
Al Baker also appeared to question why airline staff who might have been to countries with large outbreaks have been stopped from flying and gone into a two-week self-isolation.
"They don't realize the operational impact this will create on an airline," he said.
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