Activist call for boycott of soon-to-arrive Qatar Airways

ATLANTA — Local and national activists are calling for a boycott of Atlanta's newest airline.

They're part of a growing movement in our area targeting Qatar Airways, one of the world's premier carriers, two weeks before it begins service to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Channel 2 Action News investigative reporter Aaron Diamant was the only TV reporter to interview Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker one-on-one Tuesday. %



"We are here to serve the people of Georgia," Al Baker told Diamant following a presentation to national and local media at the St. Regis Hotel in Buckhead.

Al Baker called the top-shelf carrier's arrival in Atlanta a potential windfall for our region.

"It will easily bring several hundred million ... direct and indirect economic benefit to the local economy," Al Baker said.

However, the airlines' arrival is clouded by controversy. A national advocacy group recently bought several local billboards and a full page ad in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution urging Atlantans to boycott state-owned Qatar Airways, claiming the airline and the government of Qatar impose anti-women and anti-worker policies.

“What do you make of that?” Diamant asked Al Baker. %



"I'm disappointed that people can go to that low level to criticize an organization they don't even know," Al Baker responded.

Local activist Cecily McMillan told us she knows enough to organize protests here.

"You've got 94 percent of the workforce in Qatar who are migrant workers, they seize the passports; they put them into literal labor camps," McMillan claimed.

Al Baker was adamant his airline is highly inclusive, with a well-paid and very happy staff.

"At the end of the day, passengers don't bother about this kind of unfounded statements by a cheap entity," Al Baker said.

He pointed to oversold flights to and from cities in the United States, including Atlanta, as proof.

"They should come, use Qatar airways, fly on it and then they can make their own judgment," Al Baker said.

Despite the protest, Qatar Airways' star-studded gala went on as planned Tuesday evening. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who was scheduled to speak at the gala, had no comment on the controversy.