Qatar Airways CEO Takes Aim at U.S. Carriers
And the domestic airlines are fighting back.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker announced additional routes to the U.S. on Monday, while also accusing U.S. air carriers of “bullying.”
Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines have accused Qatar Airways and other carriers in the Middle East of profiting from government subsidies, and they have urged U.S. President Donald Trump to take action, including in an open letter to the president published in March.
Al-Baker and the leaders of other Middle Eastern carriers that fly to the U.S. have denied receiving subsidies.
“President Trump is a wise individual and a very good businessman, and I don't think he will buy into bullying by the three American carriers,” al-Baker said, Agence-France Presse reported.
The announced new routes come as Qatar Airways has seen slight losses while battling mounting restrictions, including a recent ban from the U.S. on all large electronics on direct flights to the U.S. The ban affected some 10 airports and nine airlines in the Middle East and North Africa.
The U.S. said the restrictions were in reaction to evidence that terrorists were developing bombs that could be disguised inside laptops and tablets. However, security analysts and travel experts alike were quick to criticize the ban, calling it ineffectual and discriminatory.
Al-Baker said the restrictions had affected business only to a “very small extent,” the Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, U.S.-based Open and Fair Skies group, a coalition of American, Delta and United, swiftly criticized Qatar Airway’s announcement of new routes. The Gulf carriers have received more than $50 billion in subsidies from their governments, with Qatar Airways seeing the largest subsidies, Open & Fair Skies chief spokesperson Jill Zuckman told Travel + Leisure.
“Qatar Airways receives billions of dollars in illegal subsidies from its government in order to fly to our country and trash American jobs. It's time to enforce our international agreements and stand up for 1.2 million American jobs supported by the U.S. carriers,” she said in a statement.