Last updated: 02:26 PM ET, Wed May 13 2015

Qatar Airways CEO Fires Back at US Airlines For Bullying, 'Crap Service'

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | May 13, 2015

Qatar Airways CEO Fires Back at US Airlines For Bullying, 'Crap Service'

The already-incendiary rhetoric between the three major U.S. airlines and the three Persian Gulf carriers over the Open Skies Agreement and alleged subsidies just received a healthy dose of fuel on the fire.

In the first true public comments from the Gulf airlines, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker this morning blasted American, Delta, and United airlines, saying they have used a “bullying tactic” against Qatar, Emirates and Etihad — in part because of the U.S. airlines’ “crap service” — and he urged the U.S. government to reject calls to revise Open Skies.

Appearing at a press conference in Washington D.C., where he met with administration officials, Al Baker denied the claims of the U.S. airlines that Gulf carriers have received $42 billion in government subsidies from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates over a 10-year period.

“We don’t receive handouts,” Baker said. “We don’t receive subsidies. The government is the owner (of the airline) and that is not unique. It’s owned by the state and operates absolutely independently.” 

But in a remark that many have said is a splitting of hairs, Al Baker added, “Qatar Airways is receiving equity. We don’t get this equity on a daily basis.”

Al Baker also said, “the big three use a broad definition of subsidy for us, but a narrow one for (themselves),” noting that the U.S. airlines received $15 billion in government assistance and guarantees after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, which he said counts as subsidies.

To his credit, Al Baker did take questions from press. When one media member asked him why he thought the U.S. airlines chose now to debate Open Skies when they have been doing business with Gulf airlines for more than 10 years, Al Baker was just as candid.

“Because they are making more profits,” he said. “They have gotten greedy to make more profits. Their margins are between 10 and 15 percent. No airline in the world has this kind of margin.”


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