With two of the US majors present at the Whitehouse for a meeting to put their case for action against Qatar and Emirates airlines, Trump’s focus by all accounts – and I’ve read three that corroborate it, was almost entirely on Delta – and Ed Bastion who wasn’t there.
The President was bothered by all of the airlines, especially Delta buying Airbus and not Boeing, and pointed out that Qatar and Emirates both bought Boeing aircraft.
The meeting was by all accounts, unproductive, which is no surprise. Only a week ago The Whitehouse hosted the Qatari head of state, Emir al Thani who put his view across and no doubt pointed out that Qatar was crucial to US efforts to contain Iran as it hosts the US military command in the region. Qatar is also heavily reliant on its Iran connections to fly in and out of the Gulf because so much air space is closed to it by the Saudi-Emirati blockade, that includes Egypt and Bahrein amongst others. Bahrein just across the way, also hosts the US 5th Fleet.
According to reports on the basics of the discussion, the message from the Whitehouse was in effect, file a formal complaint under the Air Transportation Fair Competitive Practices Act of 1974 (IATFCPA), or stop their multi-million dollar lobbying as the administration is going to do nothing. US strategic interests totally outweigh the whining of the airlines, no matter who sits in the Oval Office.
Just to add to the pressure, the EU made it absolutely clear last week that AirItaly, owned 49% by Qatar, was completely and incontrovertibly, a European EU airline inside the law, and any action against it would be illegal under the OpenSkies Treaty between the EU and the US, resulting in an EU backed response.
The USB3 seem to have finally been backed in to a corner. Without support in the Whitehouse, there will be none in the Senate, the whole thing has made the airlines look childish and silly. There’s nothing stopping them trying to compete except their own unwillingness to offer the facilities and services passengers on the Middle East routes expect.
Nobody is stopping any of the USB3 operating Fifth Freedom flights to the US and Middle east via Europe. Yet they complain that Emirates do just that – it has to be said offering flights from Dubai to Athens and then to the US that would otherwise leave a European capital without such a service. The Milan service is also successful. Qatar doesn’t operate any Fifth Freedom flights in the first place as part of an earlier agreement with the US. The USB3 have being saying that AirItaly is Qatar’s way around it, but the tiny airline’s fleet is just 5 long haul A332’s, it can hardly be deemed a threat.