The Qatari Government and Qatar Airways are about to sign an agreement with the United States that in many ways reduces the ME3 by one to the ME2.
This has little to do with airlines and everything to do with the blockade of Qatar by most of the Sunni Middle East states – especially its neighbours Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The US Government accused Qatar of supporting terrorism – last year. The irony of it isn’t lost as all of the governments in the region support what many view as terrorists, depending on your point of view.
Qatar has agreed to make its airline succumb to international standards of accounting, to ensure it no longer receives (at least visibly) state aid, and – a what looks like but isn’t, a big concession to US airlines – it promises not to begin Fifth Freedom flights to the US.
This means that the airline will only be able to fly direct to the US. It won’t be able to fly as Emirates do for example, to Athens and then on to New York.
These restrictions aren’t difficult for Qatar to agree to. It’s basically them appearing to give up something they don’t care about to the US which does care.
What Qatar gets out of it is greater leverage in Washington against the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and the ability to demonise the ME2 as unfairly competitive.
It’s a fascinating bit or realpolitik- they’re using the Trump Administration’s almost desperate need to be seen as successfully resolving an issue in its own favour, while actually giving away nothing of value.
Washington of course will be spinning the success as much as it can, as will the US airlines. They think they’ve won something major. In fact it’s like a billionaire giving a beggar a Mercedes – the beggar can’t believe his luck, the billionaire didn’t even notice how much it cost.