Delta Withdraws Sponsorship for Fox Theatre after Qatar Air's J-Lo Concert
Photo via Flickr/Ana Carolina Kley Vita
The rivalry between Delta Air Lines and Qatar Airways has gotten more intense in recent months. The new front line in this airline war is not an airport, but the famous Fox Theatre in Atlanta. And the person at the center of the latest battle between the two airlines is none other than pop star Jennifer Lopez.
A controversial private party
This past Tuesday, Qatar rented out the Fox Theatre to celebrate the launch of its new Atlanta-Doha service. The airline’s CEO Akbar al-Baker was in attendance along with other executives and guests, and the evening’s main entertainment was a concert by J-Lo.
The choice of venue was unfortunate for Delta. The airline has been one of the Fox Theatre's major sponsors for the past two decades. Perhaps this is why al-Baker decided to host the concert there.
Ending sponsorship deal
Even before Lopez took the stage, Delta had announced that it would be ending its sponsorship deal with the concert venue. The airline had spent the past few weeks trying to convince Fox to drop the private event from its calendar. After the theater decided to go ahead with the party, Delta released the following statement:
“A few weeks ago when we became aware of the Qatar event at the Fox we reached out to share our concerns. When the Fox shared its decision to continue doing business with Qatar, an airline proven to engage in business practices that harm U.S. aviation jobs and violate human rights, we let them know we wouldn't be renewing our sponsorship.”
The theater responded by saying that the money earned from the Qatar event would be used to help fund its nonprofit initiatives. “As one of the city’s premier venues, the Fox Theatre hosts a diverse lineup of events throughout the year, including hundreds of private functions. To be clear, these private events are distinctly independent of any corporate sponsorship program. As a nonprofit, these functions are an important part of financially sustaining the theater as a staple in the Atlanta community.”
Unfair competition and a war of words
Delta had criticized the Gulf carrier for starting the Atlanta route, claiming that there is no demand for flights from Atlanta to Qatar. The Gulf carrier will have to rely on connecting fliers from other parts of the country, because the demand for direct service is extremely low. While the route grows (if it ever does), Qatar will be taking a loss. Delta and the other U.S. carriers have criticized it for breaking open skies rules by receiving government subsidies that allow it to continue flying unprofitable routes. Qatar has denied breaking the rules.
Qatar's outspoken CEO has not been remaining silent on the issue. At a conference in Germany earlier this year, al-Baker made a statement about how the new Hartsfield-Jackson to Doha service would “rub salt in the wounds” of Delta. He was also quoted by the AFP as saying "we don't fly crap airplanes that are 35 years old,” a criticism aimed at Delta and other U.S. legacy carriers.
Delta’s deal with the Fox Theatre will not be renewed. However, according to local Atlanta news sources, the contract does not expire until next May. This means that things could cool down and the decision could be reversed before the partnership actually ends.
More by Josh Lew
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