The Open Skies slugfest playing out on CNN’s ‘Quest Means Business’ continued today with a new statement by Delta Air Lines and an interview with Emirates’ President and CEO Tim Clark.

What had already been a contentious debate between U.S. carriers Delta, American Airlines, and United Airlines and their rivals in the Gulf region, Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways, was heightened on Monday when Delta CEO Richard Anderson told CNN’s Richard Quest that it was ironic Gulf airlines were complaining about post-9/11 financial benefits U.S. airlines received since the attacks of 9/11 originated in Arabia.

Today, Emirates’ Clark appeared on CNN and said of Anderson’s turn of phrase, “I’m not angry. I’m a little bit concerned that Mr. Anderson crossed the line with what he said in regard to 9/11, which has caused great offense in this part of the world.” Clark said later in the interview, “I wonder if Mr. Anderson thought of the feelings of his SkyTeam partners at Saudia.”

Clark also responded to claims of unfair state aid from Gulf states to Gulf airlines that are said to be contained in a report that Delta, American, and United gave U.S. government officials. “We have not had the benefit or courtesy of being supplied with this report,” Clark told Quest. “I would have though if these airlines were going to make allegations the least they could have done is to supply us with that report.”

Clark also addressed the challenges the U.S. carriers are having rallying support for their complaints about Gulf carriers. “I do not believe that Mr. Anderson’s statements are representative of the aviation industry in the U.S. Particularly when they encroach on the Open Skies regime.”

Last week, U.S. airports and the US Travel Association spoke out against the carriers’ Open Skies position.

Apologies From Delta

Delta has now issued two statements to clarify Anderson’s remarks. The first was given yesterday to International Business Times:

“The point Richard was making is this: Emirates, Qatar and Etihad have long tried to defend their government bankrolls by characterizing the 9/11 payments and Chapter 11 bankruptcy as subsidies. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The first was a modest one-time payment to U.S. airlines in the aftermath of the U.S. airspace closure after 9/11. That shutdown and its aftermath resulted in the loss of tens of thousands airline jobs and billions of dollars in debt and equity for investors. Ch. 11 is a completely transparent process that involves no government funding.”

“The Middle East carriers, meanwhile, capitalized on that difficult time in the industry’s history to begin in earnest an unfettered expansion that was largely paid for with subsidies from their governments.”

Delta further clarified Anderson’s words today in a statement shared with CNN and Skift.

“Richard was reacting to claims the gulf carriers have been making that US airlines received subsidies in the form of payments from the US government after the 9/11 attacks and the bankruptcy proceedings that resulted. He didn’t mean to suggest the gulf carriers or their governments are linked to the 9/11 terrorists. We apologize if anyone was offended.”

“The point Richard was making is this: Emirates, Qatar and Etihad have long tried to defend their government subsidies by characterizing the 9/11 payments and Chapter 11 bankruptcy as subsidies. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The first was a one-time payment to US airlines in the aftermath of the US airspace closure after 9/11. Delta didn’t receive loan guarantees. The post-9/11 shutdown and its aftermath resulted in the loss of tens of thousands airline jobs and billions of dollars in debt and equity for investors. The bankruptcy proceedings that followed involved a completely transparent process with no government funding.”

 

 

Photo Credit: Portion of a statement from Delta Air Lines. CNN