Jennifer Lopez gave a lively performance for a group of prominent Atlanta social, civic and philanthropic leaders at the Fox Theatre at Qatar Airways' glamorous launch party Tuesday night. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed gave a warm welcome to the carrier that launches service in Atlanta soon.
"I'm thrilled tonight to welcome Qatar Airways, a partnership that goes beyond air travel," he said, noting the airline's work with the Atlanta public schools system.
Superintendent Meria Carstarphen was among the guests at the event, as was Atlanta City Council member Kwanza Hall.
"Qatar Airways staff will work with the Atlanta public schools to further inspire students to explore the world through the joy of reading and traveling," Reed said. "I want to thank you for committing to our community in reaching out to help educate our children. We're thrilled to be working and flying partners with Qatar Airways."
Atlanta's party scenesters flocked to the Fox for the launch. Guests included author Emily Giffin, broadcasters Monica Pearson and Mara Davis, celebrity voice coach Jan Smith, designer Jada Loveless, environmental activist Laura Turner Seydel, private jeweler Jonathan Shapero, events planner Toni Moceri, publicists Lisa Rayner and Liz Lapidus, wealth management executive Jack Sawyer, prominent real estate agent Lisa Fuller, philanthropists Sally Dorsey and Cathy Thrift and Dickey Broadcasting Company's Patti Dickey.
A small group of protestors turned up, holding signs and speaking out at the beginning of the evening. An open letter from Association of Flight Attendants, which represents nearly 60,000 flight attendants at 18 airlines, cited human rights concerns in imploring Lopez to cancel her performance.
"Qatar Airways Group is owned by the nation of Qatar, where being LGBT is illegal, punishable by up to five years in prison," the open letter from association president Sara Nelson said. "Other illicit sexual relations are punished by flogging, the penalty for adultery being 100 lashes. Labor Unions are also illegal in Qatar, where immigrants make up 90 percent of the workforce. Upon entering the country, their passports are seized and the migrant workers are often forced into slavery. Those who protest or try to leave are thrown in prison. Qatar is one of the worst countries in the world for human trafficking and slavery. Human Rights groups are lining up against Qatar Airways and there will be a massive protest outside the Fox Theater."
The "massive" protest ended up being about a dozen people holding signs, and there was no mention of it during the evening.
Qatar Airways issued this statement pertaining to the Washington-based Alliance for Workers Against Repression Everywhere, or AWARE, which participated in the Atlanta protest Tuesday and also ran radio ads in Boston before the airline launched service there earlier this year.
"The allegations made by the organization that calls itself AWARE are patently false.
Qatar Airways respects the laws of every country it serves, and does not discriminate on the basis of gender, sexuality, religion or nationality. The airline recruits from all over the world and bases its hiring decisions on the ability of the candidate to provide world-class service.
Qatar Airways questions how a newly founded organization has managed to fund a multi-million dollar campaign that is apparently only targeting a single entity.
Qatar Airways is proud of its employees, and offers leading tax-free pay, housing, global medical coverage and other benefits that combined result in a highly desirable career opportunity. More than 112 nationalities are represented in its cabin crew staff alone, men and women who come to Qatar Airways for the career opportunity that may not be available elsewhere. As a measure of how competitive Qatar Airways roles are, the airline currently receives 5,000 applications every day for cabin crew positions alone.
Within the Group, more than 160 nationalities are represented. Qatar Airways employs 40,000 people."