25 Moments that Mattered in 2015: To make our selection of 25 moments, we thought back to the stories that drove reader engagement and sparked discussion among both travel experts and the general public. Some stories were quick blips that represented bigger things while others were narratives that built slowly through out the year. Each one, though, spoke to where we are right now when it comes to the big business of global travel.
Not many people in the U.S. were watching in February when Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson appeared on CNN International’s “Quest Means Business” show and indirectly blamed the Gulf carriers — Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Air — for the attacks of 9/11.
But we were. In the days that followed, all the decorum usually seen among airline execs went out the window as Delta tried to apologize in at least three different ways and Qatar Air’s CEO claimed Anderson’s complaint was an attempt to “hide his inefficiency.”
In the months that have followed, the U.S. three formed the lobbying group Partnership for Open and Fair Skies to distribute questionable research and push U.S. lawmakers to alter open skies agreements in order to limit the Gulf carriers’ growth. United and American’s CEOs have been content to let Anderson lead the charge and he has largely done so alone. Travel leaders in both the U.S. and Europe have come out against the U.S. carriers, as has the U.S. Justice Department and airlines including JetBlue.
The battle isn’t over, but it’s becoming more lonely for Anderson and his peers at United and American.
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Photo credit: From left, United Airlines Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Smisek, American Airlines Group Chairman and Chief Executive Officer W. Douglas Parker, and Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson, participate in a panel discussion about what they call unfair international competition, Friday, May 15, 2015, at the National Press Club in Washington. Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press