Just a week and a half ago Delta’s CEO was backing off criticisms of Emirates and Etihad while focusing on Qatar. He probably knew at that time that it would become his way of declaring victory despite consistent defeat.
Delta has led the charge with United and American behind to gut U.S. Open Skies agreements with the UAE and Qatar, limiting flight options for consumers and asking the government to force a raise in airfare prices.
They claimed the 3 Gulf airlines were heavily subsidized, while ignore subsidies to other airlines and even to themselves (and exaggerating the extent of those subsidies, going so far as to fabricate claims in their white paper).
Their lobbying went nowhere in the Obama administration. They put their chips behind Donald Trump’s protectionist rhetoric, but the Gulf carriers buy Boeing and Delta does not. However Qatar needs to curry favor with the U.S. after the Trump administration emboldened the UAE and Saudi Arabia against them.
Meanwhile Delta’s CEO emphasizes that it’s Qatar which is their real target, despite talking about Emirates, Etihad and Qatar in tandem for 3 years.
[T]he Delta CEO is quick to note that the Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways are anything but a monolith.
“I’m not sure they’re all the same,” Bastian told Business Insider in a recent interview. “I think there are three different business models between the three. We have to be careful we don’t to group them together.”
…Qatar Airways is just a government agency that bleeds money,” Bastian told us. “If you look at their financial results, they weren’t the worst performing airline in the world, Alitalia and Air Berlin were worse than them. Qatar was third.”
- Qatar will provide greater financial transparency
- Qatar will not offer flights between the U.S. and Europe
Of course Qatar hasn’t flown between the U.S. and Europe. Instead their strategy has been to invest in airlines that do — such as British Airways parent IAG and Meridiana.
This will eliminate an area of friction between the U.S. and Qatar, and allow Delta to claim victory, without Qatar Airways having to give up anything of significance.
Since the agreement covers only Qatar and not Emirates or Etihad it’s unclear what the future of the Delta, American, and United campaign looks like. Qatar is likely the most subsidized of the 3 carriers. Qatar’s CEO is the most likely to say offensive things. So they’ve been the target of US airline racist attacks. Will they be emboldened by progress, or stalled by the removal of their juiciest enemy?
(HT: Jonathan W.)