Qatar Airways Admits To Breaking Anti-Trust Law With American Airlines?

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker gave an interview to CNN’s Richard Quest, which aviation industry site Enilria flags as the airline CEO reportedly admitting to violating U.S. anti-trust law with American Airlines.

[T]he CEO of Qatar Airways refers to swapping Philadelphia (PHL) and New York JFK routes with American which we have covered. Trouble is, they don’t have antitrust immunity or schedule coordination authority legally.

Is it an admission?

I’ve watched the video a couple of times, and I do not see this. Al Baker says there are more U.S. destinations for his airline to fly to. And he goes on to describe his relationship with American Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Quest asks how they “take it to the next level.” And Al Baker says that the airlines get closer to each other, as long as regulators allow it, and hopefully they obtain anti-trust immunity with American Airlines.

Al Baker says they’ve filed for anti-trust immunity only they… haven’t? They entered into a partnership in February 2020 after a long period of antagonism, and they ramped up that partnership in 2022. But no joint venture has been filed with U.S. authorities. Maybe the Qatar state-owned airline has asked Qatari competition authorities only to allow it?

Regardless, in the interview he does not mention American and Qatar Airways swapping operations, where Qatar announced it would stop flying to Philadelphia and added a third New York flight, and American contemporaneously announced it would stop flying to New York JFK and start operating from Philadelphia. The two airlines, today, do not have anti-trust immunity to coordinate their schedules.

There’s speculation that Qatar Airways could make an investment in American Airlines but there’s been not anti-trust immunity between the two carriers, though Al Baker says all that stands in the way of it is waiting on regulators to make a decision on a non-existent application.

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. Look at what QR did with AY service between ARN/CPH/HEL and DOH. Where QR was, it’s now AY. Did QR and AY file for and receive any antitrust type clearance/immunity from relevant regulators in the EU when coordinating like that?

    I have always had the sense that this Qatari Akbar guy is — much like his Saudi and Emirati neighbors— akbar at breaking the rules and flouting norms while hobnobbing with others of the same sort as him. It’s no coincidence he liked Trump and Trump liked him back even as Trump was more in bed with the Saudis and Emiratis than with the Qataris.

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