Last updated: 03:14 PM ET, Mon June 08 2015

CEOs from American, Qatar Airlines Meet

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | June 08, 2015

CEOs from American, Qatar Airlines Meet

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker (pictured above) and his counterpart at Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker, met privately on Saturday ahead of the opening of today’s International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting in Miami, where both are scheduled to speak.

And while Parker described the meeting as amicable, the two are still at odds over the Open Skies Agreement and the big three U.S. airlines’ assertion that Persian Gulf carriers distort the international travel marketplace by taking government subsidies.

Al Baker made his formal, public remarks this morning, addressing what he called "the issue of protectionism,” and warned of the consequences.

"Any drawback of liberal market access and open sky policies will reverberate across the whole world and lead to trade protectionism," he said.

Parker quickly shot back: "This has nothing to do with protectionism. … This is about being able to compete against airlines instead of governments"

American, Delta and United have alleged that Qatar, Emirates and Etihad airlines have accepted a combined $42 billion in government subsidies from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. All three Persian Gulf airline CEOs have said recently, and separately, that while they admit they are owned by their respective governments, they deem any financial assistance to be equity investments or loans that must be paid back – not subsidies.

IATA, which represents more than 250 airlines globally, has stayed out of the fray, although CEO Tony Tyler said: “IATA and its members are fully in favor of growing liberalization, free and fair competition; that's the policy of members and policy of IATA.”

Prior to today’s opening of the annual general meeting, Tyler told Bloomberg News: “It’s no secret. There is underlying tension in our industry.”


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