Delta Flies “Crap Airplanes”

A month ago I offered the simple political truth that When Your Airline CEO Adversary Commits Political Suicide, Just Stand Back and Let Him.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker, however, doesn’t know — or simply cannot — do this. Instead he feels the need to make incendiary claims that shine the spotlight back on himself.. to his detriment.

At a conference today he reiterated his take on the ongoing row with US airlines over subsidies received by the largest Middle East carriers.

“I think Mr Anderson (CEO of Delta, Richard Anderson) doesn’t know the difference between equity and subsidy. We never receive any subsidy,” Baker said.

“The state of Qatar is the owner of Qatar Airways and whatever funds are put into the airline is as equity, which is quite legitimate.

“The unfortunate thing is that because they are so inefficient they want to blame us — whilst we are very efficient — for their failures and drawbacks.

While seemingly purely definitional, and such matters are resolved in international law on the basis of definitions, it’s a totally unpersuasive case.

(Though worth noting that distinctions that appear purely form over substance in terms of equity versus debt are very important in Islamic economics given the prohibition on usury.)

US airlines have little ability to persuade voters that they deserve protection from competition and that the government ought to adopt policies which drive up costs to consumers. So if you’re Qatar, let them flounder. Making a case on the basis of definitions rather than transparency will only serve to paint yourself into a corner as the villain.

Here’s the pull quote from the talk, though:

“I am delighted that Richard Anderson of Delta is not here. First of all, we don’t fly crap airplanes that are 35 years old. The Qatar Airways average fleet (age) is only fours years and one month,” said Baker.

(This site — which indicates data updated March 5 — and this site both say Qatar’s average fleet age is 5 years 4 months.)

al-Baker says as well that their planes are the most environmentally sound in the industry — but pretty much tells anyone who cares to shut up.

“We have ultra-modern airplanes. We have invested, my country has invested, huge amounts to make sure we are the lowest CO2 contributor in the aviation industry.”

…”People who make lots of noise about CO2, people who make so much noise about greenhouse gases that are emitted from airplane engines, don’t realise that they are constantly travelling by airplane, so they should start walking or going on horseback if they really mean what they say.”

I’m not on the side of the US airlines in the current dispute but it’s sure hard to be on the side of this guy.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Bottom line is that Mr Baker is 100% correct.

    Delta do fly crappy planes, United also fly crappy planes and “crappy planes” is far too kind when it comes to American – AA is positively outrageous, bordering on fraud. I am scared every time I get on one of those very crappy, very old old old MD80’s they still fly.

    So you can argue all day about the backroom stuff and who said what and who’s got a bigger dick, the bottom line is the middle-eastern carriers are wowing the international flying community with their superior aircraft, their superior people, their superior service and their superior fares.

    The Seppo’s have been caught with their proverbial pants down. LOL

  2. Lets admit US companies are crap,even crap is a compliment,i flew recently Chicago to London on AA to discover their crap 767 have no personal tv,i cant believe in 2015 a transatlantic flight without petsonal entertainment,thats CRAP.

  3. I doubt that his comments have any basis or variation based on so-called “Islamic banking/finance”. An equity investment is an equity investment even if the dividend pay-out to equity owners is not the product of traditional debt financing practices that are common in the US and Europe.

  4. Talking only about interior comfort (and not well maintained mechanically and electrically) Delta does seem to fly crap airplanes.

    I’ve been in first class seats with missing arm rests, broken VOD systems, broken tray tables, non reclinable chairs and just plain dirty with crmbs and stains on the chair.

    Most US based airlines are probably the same. I would like nicer interiors and more posh experiences but I rather the airline spend money and keeping the planes from falling out of the sky.

    Anywhoo give Qatar 5-10 more years flying the same aircraft and we’ll see what shape thie planes are then.

  5. I have to take exception that US companies are crap, I mean that’s a little too much. So if the posted is using a Mac or Dell running Windows or Apple they should stop using them, remember their crap!

    Now seriously Delta does fly old very old airplanes and their “updates” are lame at best. UA is another really bad US Flag carrier really bad. When they do order new airplanes their ordering for the most part Air Buses and the bottom or at better mid models. Their service is shameful as is food. And one wonders why more and more people are flying foreign flags? Wake up and smell the coffee Anderson

    I have for international trips planned for the next 9 months, none on US flag carriers, I want to enjoy my trip and not fly in a smelly old plane really old plane

    Just one’s thoughts

  6. More than once last year, I’ve gotten to my seat on flights in QR business class out of DOH and noticed they failed to clean my seat or tray tables properly. Had no such negative encounter in regard to DL long-haul
    business class.

  7. His comments about the evils of fossil fuel consumption are pretty hilarious coming from one of the oil kingdoms, no?

    I also don’t think his “equity” argument makes any sense. So the gov’t gives its state-owned airline whatever money it wants for as long as it wants. It’s not a “subsidy” — it’s “equity”!

    To paraphrase, that’s a “crappy” argument. 🙂

  8. He is correct to a certain degree. But the regions ME3 operates out of have different economic conditions as well, they are far younger airlines so you can’t expect them to have 20+ year aircraft when the airlines themselves aren’t even that old. However, let’s be honest here because I see many people who will keep saying that the ME3 airlines are not that great and the service is terrible and that DL was actually much better in Business. A vast majority of travelers fly Economy, and the product that DL/UA/AA delivers does not touch ME3. Now in premium travel (Business class), the gap is a little closer but ME3 still provide better service. Younger, smiling FA’s provide a more positive atmosphere on ME3 vs. ancient and annoyed FA’s from the senior class of DL/UA/AA. EK/EY have first class (and higher basically) and their product is simply superior to the US carriers. Let’s not live in denial and think the gap is much closer, there are plenty of expat employees for ME3 that came from US carriers who will say that ME3 simply has the better product. Now if we’re talking labor laws and the way that some employees are treated, that’s a different story and a different discussion. But if we’re talking who has the crappier product, there’s a clear answer if you ask those who have flown ME3 and a US carrier.

    I give most of my business to DL, and while their product is not as good as ME3 the domestic side is better than other US carriers. No it’s not luxurious, and I find myself boarding a flight that just landed 30 minutes earlier and barely got serviced so the condition of aircraft seem less than ideal, but when you are flying domestic US you can’t expect much. With several hundred aircraft in their fleet, you can’t expect DL to be buying several hundred aircraft every 10 years.

    Completely different situations for both parties, completely different growth models. I hope the DL continues to invest more in their product and remaining ahead of the other US carriers, perhaps one day they’ll lessen the gap that exists between them an ME3. But we should really start to be honest with ourselves on who has the better product…having flown over 2 million miles in my life on many carriers (DL, UA, AA, WN, B6, EK, EY, AF, BA, LH, IB, KL, SQ, CX, TG) it’s been my experience that allows me to say that ME3 just has a better product than any of the US airlines.

  9. @ Gary Leff — Qatar does make more money from gas than oil, but they are also a significant oil producer and a member of OPEC. Of course, this is all quite silly, because I’m sure Qatar’s CEO doesn’t give a fig about Delta’s green-ness.

  10. Delta not only flies crappy old beat up planes
    well at least the recent one didn’t end up in La Guardia Bay) It has crappy management who would sell their mother for a nickel. Oh did I say they have a crappy loyalty program with crappy award availability with their Sky Pesos?
    Big Delta fan here too 😉
    All this publicity has me on Gulf Carriers Emirates Etihad ,Singapore Airlines, Qantas and Cathay to avoid fuel surcharges,,lousy food and bad reward availability.
    Loyalty is a two way street. And no we don’t want your crappy program or your 35 year old plane
    Its a wake up call to our countries sub par airlines!!
    Delta Really sucks!@!!!!!!

  11. Sorry but the argumentation regarding subsidy vs equity, if true, is absolutely relevant and persuasive. At least to people who understand these 2 concepts.

    Equity is an investment aimed at getting a return contrary to a subsidy which works like a donations and does not anticipate tangible returns.

    The point made by the US airlines is that Middle East Carriers get subsidies (so donations) to reduce their prices which creates an unfair competitive situation.
    Equity is not a donation and has nothing to do with unfair competition. It’s not free money. In every industry some companies increase their equity and invest it to get a competitive advantage be it on quality, service or technology. Nothing unfair here this is healthy competition.

    So if indeed EM carriers do not get subsidies but equity investment from their state, he is right to make that point. And unless someone can demonstrate that EM airlines are not expected to generate profits and get equity for the sake of competing and loosing money for ever, there is no point to be made about unfair competition.

  12. All he would have to do is bring to the news conference one of the career Delta maintenance inspectors like my old friend who is being locked out of doing his scheduled inspections by outsourced sweatshops, told by management to go back to his hotel or move on to the next stop where the same thing happens. Meanwhile they are trying to push him into early retirement which leaves the plane repairs inspected by no one except the sweat shops and an overworked FAA inspector. This is the sort of cutrate outsourcing that led to changing the template on the Horizontal Stabilizer gear that lifts the two-ton tail flap on MD-80’s, causing Alaska’s to strip out and fly upside down before plunging into the Pacific off LA.

    As to United, I last flew a CRJ200 into the midwest on the day NYT detailed the fix for ice melting into a power bay under the pilots causing fires. I asked the pimply faced pilot who looked 20 if it was fixed yet and he didn’t know anything about it or even that there is an electric bay under his seat. I’m supposed to fly one again in May and wonder if I’m committing suicide in a literal race to the bottom.

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