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When asked about the outlook for 2018 in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, al-Baker said: "Yes, there is a possibility it could be a second year of losses, but we have mitigated our losses in a big way".

Pressed further as to why being a woman was incompatible with holding the CEO position, Al-Baker said that he was "only referring to one individual" and "not to the staff in general".

The issue of gender imbalance in aviation was a hot topic among over 200 airlines represented at the annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in Sydney, with the predominantly male gathering agreeing more had to be done.

The chief executive of Qatar Airways, who sits on the board of Heathrow airport, has inflamed a row over sexism in the airline industry by saying only a man could do his challenging job.

U.S. and some European airlines have accused Gulf carriers of unfair competition based on subsidies and social policies, but Walsh - whose group counts Qatar Airways as a shareholder - said he believed Gulf airlines competed on an equal footing.

"Qatar Airways firmly believes in gender equality in the workplace and our airline has been a pioneer in our region in this regard, as the first airline to employ female pilots, as one of the first to train and employ female engineers, and with females represented through to senior vice president positions within the airline". We see that they have huge potential in doing senior management positions.

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"Oliver and I share the same vision and passion for reimagining the game of football", Vince McMahon stated in a press release. He was later president and general manager of the Houston Dynamo, leading the franchise to two MLS Cup titles.

He insisted there was no gender inequality at the Gulf carrier, which enjoys a close business partnership with British Airways, as well as being the largest single shareholder in BA's parent company, IAG.

'If you get the best talent, the best people, the best jobs you're going to perform better, ' he said, sitting alongside Al Baker at a press briefing.

The airline pointed to a Bloomberg News interview in which he said he had not meant to refer to all women at the company.

He said recently: "It's the right business thing to do and it's the right moral thing to do".

The airline industry wants to attract more women, but no one seems to have told the trade body's new chairman.

Qatar Airways has today been contacted for comment.