A group of CEOs from major airlines in the USA…and one outside the USA, met with President Donald Trump in the White House yesterday to discuss objections over Gulf Carriers and Air Italy. But one vocal opponent was visibly missing.
Present at the meeting were:
Oscar Munoz – United Airlines CEO
Doug Parker – American Airlines CEO
Akbar Al Baker – Qatar Airways CEO
Robin Hayes – JetBlue CEO
Frederick Smith – FedEx CEO
Bill Flynn – Atlas Air CEO
Yes, folks. His Excellency attended as well. But do you notice who was missing?
If you said Ed Basitan, CEO of Delta Air Lines, you are correct. I wonder if he declined attending once he found out that Al Baker was coming to town? It is rather difficult to look someone in the eye that you have lied viciously about. Initial reports suggested Bastian would attend.
But Delta claimed Bastian was unable to attend due to “international travel”. It seems to me, though, that this is the sort of the meeting you re-arrange travel plans in order to attend. If Qatar and Air Italy’s actions are as egregious as Bastian contends (see below for background), then the “I’m traveling” excuse seems rather lame, even if this was a long-planned vacation.
What Happened In White House Meeting?
We are still waiting for details about what happened behind closed doors. No transcripts of discussion, video clips, or even photos have been released by the White House or any of the attendees.
The Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, a lobbying group backed by American, Delta, and United, did say:
We had a productive meeting with President Trump today to talk about the importance of American jobs and not letting foreign governments break their agreements with the United States.
The president shares our concerns and instructed us to keep working with the U.S. Department of Transportation, which we plan to do.
Keep working in what capacity?
We do know that Hayes, Smith, and Flynn oppose blocking Air Italy, arguing it will have disastrous ramifications.
A Reminder of the Duplicity
Rather than rehash what I’ve discussed on several occasions, I’d invite you to check out two superb recent articles over at View from the Wing if you want some background on why U.S. carriers continue to fight:
The CEOs of the 3 Biggest Airlines Wrote an Op-Ed and Every Paragraph is Misleading
Delta Taking Part Ownership of Alitalia is “Certainty” While Italy’s Government Will Kick in More Subsidies
In a word, the charges against Gulf Carriers and Air Italy are bogus. But it makes for good political theatre and plays well to employees and other Americans too clueless to research the issue for themselves. Delta has never seen a subsidy it did not like for itself, but hypocritically opposes all subsidies it cannot place its grubby paws on. Even more importantly, Delta opposes competition, like Air Italy, that offers a compelling alternative to consumers and nonstop service from Milan Malpensa to cities that no other airline serves. Oh, and Air Italy employees unionized Italian citizens, not slaves as critics have contended…
Until we have more news about the substance of yesterday’s White House meeting, the story to me seems to be that Ed Bastian could not look Akbar Al Baker in the eye with a straight face. As the most vocal opponent of Air Italy and Qatar Airways, his absence at the meeting further undermines what little creditability he had left on the issue.