Airline boss apologises for saying only men could do his job

The head of Qatar Airways has apologised for saying a woman could not do his job.

Chief executive Akbar Al Baker was asked what could be done to tackle the lack of women in Middle East aviation companies.

He said there were no issues of equality at Qatar, before making the controversial comment about the possibility of women being in charge of a large airline.

"Of course, it has to be led by a man, because it is a very challenging position." 

Al Baker said his remarks at the closing of a major airlines conference in Sydney had been intended as a joke, and had been taken out of context.

He defended his airline's record of gender diversity, saying 44 percent of their staff were female.

The airline had previously held a policy that allowed them to 'terminate crew' if they became pregnant. It's also reported the airline told female staff they needed permission before getting married.

"Quite frankly I think the press took it out of context. It was just a joke ... I apologise for it," Al Baker told reporters at the conference.

He said the claim he is sexist "runs counter to my track record of expanding the role of women in leadership throughout the Qatar Airways Group."

The remarks came after other airlines spoke of their efforts to do more about quality in the industry.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the issue was a priority for his airline.

"Not only is diversity a competitive advantage, it's the right business thing to do and it's the right moral thing to do."

Reuters / Newshub.