Qatar Airways fights back on Air Italy criticism

Qatar Airways has defended its shareholding in Air Italy against claims that the stake contravenes the United States-Qatar open skies agreement.

There have been accusations, notably from Delta Air Lines and other US-based carriers, that state aid from Qatar is having a detrimental impact on the American aviation market.

Qatar Airways holds a 49 per cent stake in Air Italy parent company, AQA.

This minority investment is at the same level that Delta holds in both Virgin Atlantic and Aeromexico, and that Etihad held in Alitalia, points out the Middle Eastern carrier.

Qatar Airways argues investment in Air Italy, and operations to the United States, are fully compliant with the United States-Qatar open skies agreement, the January 2018 US-Qatar understandings and a side letter that accompanied the discussions.

“Unfounded claims that Qatar Airways’ investment in Air Italy violates the understandings are entirely false,” Qatar Airways said in a statement.

Meanwhile the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies – a coalition composed of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines – argued Qatar Airways was using Air Italy to damage US interests.

“There is bipartisan concern that Qatar Airways is violating last year’s agreement with the United States – making its finances more opaque instead of less and using Air Italy as a proxy to undermine the US airline industry,” read a statement.

“The future of this industry – and the jobs it supports – depend on the Trump administration holding Qatar accountable for its trade-cheating actions.”

Qatar Airways said its investment in Air Italy was a matter of public knowledge at the time of the US-Qatar discussions and that the investments were not raised as a point of concern during those talks.

Furthermore, Qatar Airways argued it does not codeshare on any of Air Italy’s flights to the United States, and has no plans to do so.

The statement from Qatar concluded: “The ‘big three’ United States carriers have consistently demonstrated their hostility to new entrants into the US-Europe market, and their attacks on Air Italy based on the identity of its minority shareholder are just another manifestation of this hostility.

“Air Italy, the carrier the ‘big three’ cite as a major ‘threat’ to their survival, has a fleet of just 15 aircraft and only serves one United States city – New York – with a daily service while other routes, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco are operated at a lower frequency.”

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