Delta immediately turned the tables on US-Latin America flying by announcing plans to take a 20% stake in LATAM, South America’s largest airline. Delta is pulling them out of oneworld and out of a pending joint venture with American Airlines.
One side benefit that must have been sweet for Delta, though has gone largely unremarked upon, is the extra benefit that comes from sticking it to Qatar Airways.
- Qatar Airways owns 10% of LATAM.
- Delta will own twice the stake in the airline than Qatar Airways.
- And the South American carrier will leave the alliance of which Qatar Airways is a part.
There’s no airline rivalry that’s been greater than Delta vs. Qatar. Delta has led the charge of major U.S. airlines to block Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar – and especially Qatar – from flying to the U.S. They’ve been largely unsuccessful in this effort, although it’s gotten extremely petty.
Delta’s CEO even skipped a meeting with the President where Qatar’s CEO Akbar Al Baker was going to be present.
Qatar started air service to Atlanta, in Al Baker’s words, “to rub salt in the wounds” and declared that Delta “flies crap airplanes.” For its part Delta dropped sponsorship of the historic Fox Theater in Atlanta because Qatar held an event there. And Delta’s public campaign has taken some really ugly (and in my view racist) turns. The revenge aspect of this, though unspoken, is surely in the background.
Qatar has just made its next move. It’s a small one, but they sent out a press release to make sure everyone would know it. They hosted LATAM’s board meeting in Doha October 13 – 15 and they’ve announced expanded codesharing with LATAM Brazil offering connections “throughout Brazil and South America including Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, Curitiba, Lima and Bogota to name a few.” As well LATAM puts its code on Qatar’s Sao Paulo – Doha flight and beyond to “more than 25 destinations in the Middle East, East Africa and South Asia, including Vietnam, Malaysia and Cambodia.”
As a bit of a rapprochement between Qatar and LATAM, LATAM’s CEO offers,
We thank Qatar Airways for inviting us to Doha to hold our board meeting and visit its state-of-the-art facilities. We had productive meetings and had the opportunity to learn about the products and services that make it one of the world’s leading airlines for customers.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker, of course, is aviation’s greatest troll. And while the location of the meeting may well have been scheduled for some time, the press release in the U.S. about the location of LATAM’s board meeting certainly was not.