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Qatar CEO Takes a Stab at Delta, Escalates Tension

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ME3, the three big airlines in the Middle East (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar), have long been in disagreement with US carriers, as they continue to expand their routes into the US. Because of Open Skies policies, international carriers now have more access to the US than ever before. By allowing more routes and, therefore, more competition for the US airlines, there is some obvious tension between the traditional domestic carriers and “subsidized” international carriers, especially the three largest carriers in the Middle East.

Specifically, Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al Baker is known for his controversial remarks. In the past, he’s taken both direct stabs at other airlines, like calling Delta CEO Richard Anderson unpatriotic, weak and unethical, as well as subtle stabs like launching flights to unprofitable routes — seemingly just for the sake of doing so.

Qatar's CEO Akbar
Qatar’s CEO Akbar Al Baker. Image courtesy of Qatar Airways.

Al Baker’s latest move is a combination of the two. At ITB Berlin, Qatar announced it was launching 14 new routes, including a route to Atlanta from its Doha hub — as well as the longest flight in the world, among a few others. The new Atlanta route doesn’t make much sense considering that Atlanta isn’t a big hub for any Oneworld carrier and is a hub of rival Delta, meaning there’s no possibility for connecting flights for Qatar. In his reasoning for the route, Al Baker said it’s in an effort to “rub salt in the wounds of Delta.”

With the remarks, Al Baker is really starting to push his luck with the US carriers, specifically Delta. As ME3 continues their expansion into the US, the US carriers are making moves of their own. Just recently, Delta and United pulled their routes out of Dubai. But with their move, US-based travelers might not be missing out on much (at least from an in-flight comfort perspective), as the service in general tends to be much better on international carriers, specifically ME3.

Overall, Al Baker’s remark was arguably not a smart move, but will Qatar really benefit from establishing this route that may very well not be very profitable for the airline? Most likely, that’s not the case. This seems to be just another tale in the ongoing feud between ME3 and US-based carriers, specifically Delta.

What do you think about Al Baker and his most recent comment?

H/T: One Mile at a Time

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