Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian accused Qatar Airways of using government subsidies to fund Air Italy’s plans to expand into the US.
Bastian published an op-ed on Friday severely criticising the rival airlines’ move which violated the agreement struck between the Trump administration and the Qatari government.
The suspicion with regard to Air Italy’s ownership surfaced when the airline despite running in losses (amounting to hundreds of millions of Euros) suddenly bought a fleet of brand new jets and announced a major global expansion of flights between Milan and North American cities including New York, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Toronto.
The mystery was solved with a simple question asked by a Deutsche Bank airline analyst, “Who is funding Air Italy’s losses?”
Delta CEO’s report revealed that Qatar Airways purchased 49% of a small Italian airline called Meridiana in 2017 and rebranded it Air Italy earlier this year. As per the agreement between the two nations, Qatar Airways cannot add any more Fifth-Freedom flights. (The Fifth Freedom flight implies the right a flight holds to fly between two foreign countries where it either begins or ends in one’s own country.) According to Bastian’s op-ed Qatar Airlines is the real owner of Air Italy flights, which fly between Europe and the US; which is the direct violation of the official agreement.
Qatar Airways would be required to disclose more about its finances to the U.S. State Department. The unfair advantage provided to Middle Eastern airline by the Qatari government finally stands questioned after years of complaints from Delta airlines and other major U.S. carriers. Delta, American and United Airlines have raised serious concerns about the unjust subsidies from Qatar’s government to its state-run airline. The subsidies enjoyed by Qatar drove U.S airlines out of the Middle East and India, and threatened thousands of airline jobs in the U.S.