A White House Meeting With Airline CEOs Turned Into “A Lot of Yelling”: Report

Jul 30, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

In an Oval Office meeting earlier this month that featured “a lot of yelling,” according to one attendee, President Trump took US airline executives to task over their ongoing dispute with Middle Eastern carriers.

NBC News first reported on the meeting, which was attended by the CEOs of American and United, as well as Qatar Airways, JetBlue and cargo carriers FedEx and Atlas Air.

The meeting revolved around the claim by American, Delta and United that the three biggest airlines in the Middle East — Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad — are violating the so-called Open Skies agreements regulating air traffic between their nations and the US. The US airlines are especially concerned that the three Gulf-based carriers are also eating into their lucrative transatlantic market share by exploiting “fifth-freedom flights“, which stop in Europe on the way to the Middle East.

US airlines have long complained that the flights represent unfair competition, claiming that the Gulf-based airlines receive high government subsidies that allow them to sell cheap tickets on overseas flights. The issue has come to a renewed boiling point recently after Qatar Airways purchased a 49% stake in Air Italy, a move that American carriers viewed as a way for Qatar to skirt the rules and use Air Italy to carry passengers between Europe and the US — even though Qatar does not hold a majority of the Italian airline.

A trade group representing the US airlines even aired commercials on Fox News to try to draw the president’s attention to the issue, according to the report. But, when Trump got the airline executives together in a room, he mostly criticized the performance of the US carriers, according to people who attended the meeting.

Trump was particularly incensed that Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian did not attend, despite the fact that he was a key voice in complaints against the Middle Eastern carriers, according to NBC.

On one side of the meeting were the American and United CEOs; on the other the CEO of Qatar Airways, Akbar al Baker — who once called Trump “my friend” —  plus the CEOs of FedEx, JetBlue and Atlas Air, which disagree with the other US airlines on the issue and side with the Gulf carriers.

In the end, Trump encouraged the American companies to take their complaints to official channels if they want to pursue a legal remedy to the disagreement. The Department of Transportation has an appeals process for such issues, but the US carriers have been hesitant to pursue that complex avenue, and the department has also been hesitant, since it would pit some US airlines against others.

A Trump administration official quoted by NBC said the DOT was likely to find in favor of the “Middle East Three” if that process were to move forward.

Featured photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.