Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker responded today to claims of unfair state aid to Gulf carriers by Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson.
During a segment on CNN International’s Quest Knows Business, Al Baker answered claims through a telephone call that the governments of the UAE give unfair aid to Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Air by saying, “Quite frankly Mr. Richard Anderson needs to study to find out the difference between equity and subsidy.”
Delta, United Airlines, and American Airlines are currently lobbying the U.S. government to restrict moves by the Gulf carriers to expand routes around the world, claiming that the airlines receive unfair subsidies from their governments and are in violation of the long-standing Open Skies agreement. Few airlines have sided with Delta and its peers’ arguments, and U.S. airports and tourism groups have even come out in opposition to the U.S. carriers.
Al Baker addressed Anderson’s contentious statement that it was “ironic” that Gulf carriers claimed U.S. carriers benefitted from U.S. government aid and bankruptcy protection over the last decade.
Al Baker said, “He should be ashamed to bring up the issue of terrorism in order to hide his inefficiency in running an airline. He should compete with us instead of cry wolf for his shortcomings.”
Anderson said on the same show yesterday, “It’s a great irony to have the UAE from the Arabian Peninsula talk about that, given the fact that our industry was really shocked by the terrorism of 9/11, which came from terrorists from the Arabian Peninsula.”
Al Baker and other Gulf carrier executives have argued that bankruptcy protections in the 2000s, as well as post-9/11 support by the federal government amount to unfair state aid. “Let me go back to the issue of subsidies,” Al Bakar said. “Mr. Anderson has forgotten in 2001 that the U.S. government contributed $5 billion aid to airlines and $10 billion in loan guarantees. Was this a subsidy or just a donation?”
Al Baker also argued against claims that Qatar Air and other Gulf carriers tied flight attendants into restrictive contracts that penalized them for pregnancy or weight gain. “That is a load of bullshit,” Al Baker said on air. “That is people creating issues because we don’t have unions and they don’t like that. Rumors are being circulated and they are absolutely untrue.”