To recap, the “Big 3 US” carriers and their unions have to no avail long battled the “Big 3 ME” carriers (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways) over spurious claims of price cuts, unfair competition and illegal government subsidies.
In their latest spat with Qatar Airways (which holds a 49% stake in Milan-based Air Italy) the “Big 3 US” have strenuously complained that Air Italy’s recently launched flights to the U.S., represent illegal “fifth freedom” flights.
Prior to the meeting, which was meant to be a secret, the “Big 3 US” airlines had been running ads on Fox News to try and get the attention of Trump, but that intention apparently failed miserably as the Oval Office meeting turned into, what NBC described as, “a yelling match” between the participants, including Trump himself.
Much to the chagrin of the U.S. airlines’ CEOs, the meeting was also attended by representatives of FedEx, Atlas, Jet Blue and, horror, horror, the culprit himself, Qatar Airways boss Akbar Al Baker, who at one point in the heated debate called his U.S. counterparts “liars.”
As the confrontation unfolded it became clear that the main issue, notably Air Italy, was not very high on Trump’s mind as he repeatedly scolded the three U.S. airlines over non-related issues and sided against them in what was described as “a heated, ‘Apprentice’-worthy showdown.”
In the hour-long meeting, Trump for instance queried American CEO Doug Parker why the airline’s stock price had fallen despite a surging market and he took Delta repeatedly to task over the fact that CEO Ed Bastian didn't attend the meeting and also criticised the airline for buying planes from European planemaker Airbus rather than Boeing.
According to NBC, Trump correctly noted that Qatar Airways purchased jets from Boeing. But that aside.
At the end of the meeting, which was described as a “failure for the U.S. airlines”, Trump told the airline CEOs to take their issues to the Department of Transportation to start the arduous process of filing a complaint.
Perhaps unbeknown to the U.S. president, however, the DoT in an earlier instance already determined that the three American companies would fail in such an effort.
Despite the outcome, the lobbying group of the U.S. carriers described the heated showdown as “productive”. A lost cause would have been more appropriate.
Air Italy is no priority for Trump