Delta Gate-Blocks Qatar’s Inaugural Atlanta Flight
Photo manipulation. Not actual sign at Hartsfield-Jackson. (Photo courtesy of Thinkstock)
Two can play at this game.
Remember we told you how Qatar Airways was re-igniting the Open Skies debate by starting service to Doha from Delta Air Line’s main hub in Atlanta?
Yeah, well, Delta got the last laugh on that and gave Qatar a bit of comeuppance on Wednesday when the Gulf carrier landed its inaugural flight at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.
Right after Qatar’s Airbus 380 landed and received the traditional airport water cannon salute for new service, Delta put its own damper on the festivities – it politely declined a request from airport officials to make available one of the few gates big enough at Hartsfield to accommodate the world’s largest passenger jet.
But according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Delta – in what must have been an absolutely delicious moment – said it could not. The paper said the airline develops its flight schedules and plans for gate usage months in advance, and couldn’t find a viable option to move its aircraft in the time allotted, adding that it would have had to move multiple aircraft to make room for the huge A380.
“Despite limited time to solve for the request, Delta offered solutions to allow Qatar to use the gates while ensuring our own schedule remained accommodated during a heavy traffic period at the international terminal,” Delta said in a written statement.
Instead, in what was probably something of an embarrassment for Qatar Airways on the big day, passengers were forced to de-lane by using old-fashioned mobile staircases and then were bussed to the terminal.
Going forward, Qatar plans to use the Boeing 777 for the route, which more easily fits into traditional gate space.
Delta, American and United airlines have been in a torrid war of words over the growth of the three major Middle Eastern carriers.
The U.S. Big Three have accused Qatar, Emirates and Etihad airlines of accepting more than $42 billion in government subsidies over a 14-year period, alleging that the payments help skewer the lucrative international marketplace. The three U.S. carriers sent the Obama administration a 55-page report last year, but the government has yet to make a decision on the request to re-open Open Skies talks between the United States and the governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
The Open Skies Agreements between countries allows airlines to land in any country or city without government interference, but the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies – the umbrella group representing the big three U.S. airlines – says the Gulf carriers have violated the spirit of the agreement by creating routes where there really is no market.
The Middle East airlines have denied the charge.
Nonetheless, Atlanta became Qatar’s third U.S. market this year and 10th overall out of 150 destinations with the now daily service between Atlanta and Doha.
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