Qatar Airways is hitting back at U.S. lawmakers for the steady rain of criticisms over its investment in Air Italy.
In a press release, Qatar forcefully and convincing lays out its case for why the fearing mongering from U.S. politicians is totally out of line.
First Qatar, points out that its minority stake in Air Italy is no different than Delta’s minority stakes in Virgin Atlantic or Aeromexico or what Etihad once held in Alitalia:
Qatar Airways holds a 49 per cent stake in Air Italy’s parent company, AQA. This minority investment is at the same level that Delta holds in both Virgin Atlantic and Aeromexico, and that Etihad held in Alitalia.
Next, it argues that its investment in Air Italy is fully consistent with the U.S.-Qatar Open Skies Agreement:
Qatar Airways’ investment in Air Italy, and operations to the United States, are fully compliant with the U.S.-Qatar Open Skies Agreement, the January 2018 U.S.-Qatar Understandings, and a side letter that accompanied the discussions.
Unfounded claims that Qatar Airways’ investment in Air Italy violates the Understandings are entirely false.
But it doesn’t stop there. It goes on to point out, logically, that the deal with Air Italy preceded the 2018 agreement with the U.S. and that objections to Air Italy were not raised then.
- As a factual matter, the investment preceded the January 2018 U.S.-Qatar Understandings.
- The investment was announced in a July 2016 press release and was approved in writing by the European Commission (DG Competition) in March 2017.
- The transaction was closed in September 2017.
- The discussions surrounding the Understandings took place in December 2017 and January 2018.
- Qatar Airways’ investment in Air Italy was a matter of public knowledge (as were Qatar Airways’ investments in other airlines) at the time of the U.S.-Qatar discussions; airline investments were not raised as a point of concern during those talks. The Understandings do not mention or prohibit cross-border investments of any type.
Then the real meat of the argument comes. Qatar Airways proceeds to call out U.S. carriers for the real reason behind their outrage: competition. It mocks U.S. carriers for talking about “survival” when Air Italy only has a fleet of 15 aircraft.
The “Big 3” U.S. carriers have consistently demonstrated their hostility to new entrants into the U.S.-Europe market, and their attacks on Air Italy based on the identity of its minority shareholder are just another manifestation of this hostility. Air Italy, the carrier the “Big 3” cite as a major “threat” to their survival, has a fleet of just 15 aircraft and only serves one U.S. city – New York – with a daily service while other routes, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco are operated at a lower frequency.
Finally, it argues (again convincingly) that Qatar Airways provides jobs for U.S. citizens:
The U.S.-Qatar Open Skies Agreement has brought enormous benefits to U.S. and Qatari consumers, businesses and communities. Qatar Airways’ services to the United States contribute to U.S. tourism and business. Qatar Airways is a long-term and loyal customer of Boeing, Gulfstream and General Electric, helping to secure tens of thousands of U.S. jobs through our continued investment in their products and is a valued partner to many other U.S. businesses.
This sort of hardball is necessary to counteract the lies and misinformation spread by U.S. airline lobbying groups over Qatar Airways and Air Italy. I try to report the truth about issues, which is why I applaud this press release by Qatar Airways. It is about time the Gulf carrier more forcefully combatted the mistruth being spread by U.S. trade groups and politicians over Air Italy.
image: Air Italy