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Thu 10 Mar 2016 01:45 PM

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US lobby group criticises Qatar Airways' Atlanta launch plans

Doha airline intends to launch services to Atlanta, Georgia, in June as part of significant network expansion

US lobby group criticises Qatar Airways' Atlanta launch plans

Campaigners in the US have issued a statement in response to Qatar Airways’ chief  Akbar Al Baker’s comments on Wednesday that his planned new route from Doha to Atlanta would “rub salt in the wounds” of American carrier Delta Air Lines.

The Partnership for Open Skies, the lobby group campaigning on behalf of US airlines in the ongoing subsidies row with Gulf carriers, said the Atlanta route was being launched “for the sake of petty peevishness rather than rational, market-based reasoning”.

Qatar Airways plans to commence services to Atlanta, Georgia, on June 1 2016.

During a press conference in Berlin in which the airline unveiled its expansion plans for the year ahead, CEO Al Baker reportedly said that the decision to launch services to Atlanta would “rub salt into the wounds of Delta”.

Delta Air Lines is one of three US airlines that claim Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates Airlines have received unfair subsidies from their government to help spur their growth, contravening Open Skies agreements. The three Gulf carriers all deny the charges.

In a statement on Thursday morning, Jill Zuckman, chief spokesperson for the Partnership for Open and Fair Skies, said: “Mr Al Baker has made it crystal clear that the subsidies his airline receives from the government of Qatar allow him to fly routes for the sake of petty peevishness rather than rational, market-based reasoning.

“Of course, with $17.5 billion in subsidies, Mr. Al Baker can choose to fly anywhere, anytime – even if his flights lose money and make no economic sense. The truth is, Qatar Airways is expanding at an inordinate rate because of the market-distorting buckets of cash it receives each year.

“And that’s why US airlines and pilots, flight attendants and other American aviation professionals can’t afford to have the Obama administration sit on the sidelines while the Gulf carriers violate our international agreements and take away American jobs.”

At the conference in Berlin, Qatar Airways announced a significant network expansion of 14 new destinations, including the world’s longest flight, between Doha and Auckland, New Zealand. Its rival, Emirates Airlines, launched services to Auckland at the end of last month.

It also plans to launch flights to European destinations such as Pisa Sarajevo and Helsinki, African cities such as Windhoek and Lusaka, and Asian destinations such as Krabi and Chang Mail in Thailand.

The airline also said it would recommence flights to Nice in France by summer 2017, as reported by Arabian Business last year, offering five flights per week with wide-body aircraft.

Al Baker said: “Qatar Airways prides itself on being a global connector. Qatar Airways prides itself on being a global connector, and most importantly, providing seamless and convenient connections for our customers, so that we remain their airline of choice.

“These new destinations are where our customers want to go, and where we see the most opportunity to provide a best-in-class experience at great value. We look forward to growing our network and welcoming new passengers to Qatar Airways.”

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ahmed 3 years ago

Qatar Airways has always been on the forefront of selecting new destinations, Krabi and Chang Mai are nice new additions. If American carriers want to compete with GCC carriers than upgrade your fleet and improve your customer service levels. Anyone with any sense would choose a GCC carrier over an American carrier given the option. These routes bring tourism to the US who spend money in the US.

Tara Rogers 3 years ago

Ridiculous argument. I know so many people who flew that Delta route - if there's the demand then there's a market. Good for you Qatar Airways - offering a service consumers want.

Josh 3 years ago

Ahmed,

Let's make a comparison and set the scene that you work at McDonalds. All is well until Burger King comes to town with financial subsidies from the government - something McDonalds doesn't have the option of receiving. Given the subsidies, Burger King is able to significantly drop the price of their menu and still make money as a company. In turn, customers leave McDonalds as they aren't able to compete with Burger King prices and the government subsidies. McDonalds is forced to slowly close their stores and reduce overhead until they eventually shut down - leaving you without a job. That's not business, that's not capitalism, it's a violation of the Open and Fair Skies Agreement. With that in mind, the GCC shouldn't be able to fly to/from the US unless they abide by those rules. You want to keep your job at McDonalds, don't you?

Doug 3 years ago

Josh - let's take it even further.

If you have that free and fair competition, that means that McDonald's and Burger King then also have to work to develop an overall better product than their competitor - either looking at finding ways of making a product the same quality but cheaper, or improving the quality.

So the customer then has a far wider choice of burgers to get exactly what they want, at a lower cost.

Even better...because the government isn't throwing money into Burger King, that means the government has more money. Which means it can then invest that money in something else that's socially beneficial (for instance, a burger bar management school, to train the next generation of managers who will make even better burgers and service, and provide employment for young people)...or, it can reduce taxes, giving the population more money to spend on burgers!