Qatar Airways Chairman and CEO Akbar Al Baker has waded into a contentious controversy: the age-old FA age debate.
You can listen to his remarks in context below, but he stated–
Wide seats, plenty of legroom, as well as award winning service from our international cabin crew. By the way, the average age of my cabin crew is only 26 years, so there is no need for you to travel on this crap American carriers.
Let’s stop for a moment.
His first comment is technically correct (though I found service and legroom poor on the Qatar A350 inaugural flight in economy class). I’ll give him this as well–I DO find service to be on-average tremendous on Qatar and go out of my way to fly the Doha-based carrier.
And I’ll go even one step further. Qatar crews are often beautiful.
But beauty is not limited to youthfulness and counting up what Qatar does well then saying “so there is need for you to travel on this crap American carriers” represents a blatant non-sequitur.
Feeding off of the audience’s applause, Akbar could not help himself and added one more line–
You know you are always being served by grandmothers at American carriers.
Yes, as matter of fact he is right. Many of the U.S. FAs I know are grandmothers.
In fact, nothing he says is untrue. Yet he still misses the point. By a long-shot.
Young ≠ Good
If you’re a long-time reader to this blog you know that I have argued on many occasions that there is no correlation between age and good service. For example, when writing about my bachelor party flight to Hawaii I wrote–
Working our cabin was a wonderful team of Barbara and Boise. Boise had been with United for four decades and still loved his job and Barbara wasn’t far behind him. What an amazing duo and a testament to the fact that age and great service are not at all correlated.
I also wrote about the amazing veteran crew on a Frankfurt to San Francisco first class flight. The ladies were pushing 70+ and yet I count the service on that flight as one of the best of my life.
We all age and while the beauty of youth passes, the beauty of kindness, warmth, and empathy can make even the most shriveled prune stunningly gorgeous. I mean that. Many people become more beautiful over time as they abide in love. Many American FAs fall into that category.
Why Do People Prefer Gulf Carriers?
I’ll tell you a story. I recently flew a transatlantic flight on United with a Houston-based crew. I was seated in economy class near a galley. From the very start of the flight, the crew could be heard bickering about having to serve meals and how much they hated working “these” flights (presumably overnight transatlantic flights). Average age of the crew? Probably around 35. There were many young FAs working the flight. This attitude spilled off into the way passengers were treated during the flight and even the lack of water runs that should be standard on longhaul economy class flights. Note: one of the young FAs stuffed two 2L bottles of water into her purse in front of passengers after the flight.
One passenger seated across from me was wearing a Harvard sweatshirt and had earphones on. During the flight the purser (International Service Manager as the ex-Contiental folks refer to themselves as) came through the cabin with landing cards. He attempted to hand one to the girl in the Harvard sweatshirt but she did not notice. She was looking out the window and listening to music.
The purser lost his temper, yelled at her and even stated, “Are you really a Harvard student? I doubt it!” before hurling the landing card at her, shaking his head and walking away.
I’ll be honest–I go out of my way to avoid connecting in Houston. I have had a string of bad experiences with Houston crews. It has nothing to do with age.
And now you can be honest–you know something similar to what I shared above would never happen on Qatar. It just would not.
If you want to condemn Qatar and say that’s because their indentured servants are too afraid, be careful: too afraid to what? Treat customers like crap? Steal? Akbar is so right and yet so wrong at the same time.
Some of the best FAs in the world are old. Some of the best FAs in the world are grandmothers. But some of the worst FAs in the world work for U.S. airlines. My 1.5 million miles on United, American, Delta, and Alaska give me the right to make that observation. Thus, all else equal, I will fly Qatar, especially if in a premium cabin.
But once more, I stress that age is just a number and that some of the best FAs in the world are grandmothers or senior citizens. Akbar’s joke ultimately falls flat.
image courtesy: Travelextra Ireland