Qatar Airways chief Akbar Al Baker hit out at US airline bosses over claims of government subsidies to the Gulf carriers and accused Delta Air Lines chief executive Richard Anderson of “misleading his government”.
Speaking at Arabian Travel Market in Dubai on Wednesday, Al Baker said: “Mr Anderson is stifling the interests of the US. He was previously a prosecutor and he thinks everybody is a criminal.”
Delta, American Airlines and United have alleged the Gulf carriers received more than $40 billion in hand-outs which have distorted the market. The US government began an investigation in April.
Al Baker is due in Washington next week to meet US officials and he said: “We are going to open the books and confront them.
“I don’t want to pre-empt discussions. But I am not going to mince my words. Mr Anderson is hiding behind nonsense and misleading his government.
“This data was fictitiously created. They took two years to compile these fictitious allegations and we will take two years to respond. It’s our right to respond to these lies.”
At one point he described the data in the US carriers’ allegations as “stolen”, saying: “Stealing information and misinterpreting it for your own benefit is disgusting.”
Al Baker insisted: “We are going to take our time. We need two years to research their subsidies. They were all bankrupt and now they are talking about subsidies.
“We are talking about government equity. Qatar is owned by the sovereign wealth fund of my country.”
He said: “I don’t think this argument will stand. I’m sure the US government will look at the wider picture, at the thousands of jobs our airlines create.”
But Al Baker dismissed a suggestion that the OneWorld alliance – of which Qatar and American are both members – could be in jeopardy.
Emirates president Sir Tim Clark suggested on Tuesday that the alliance could fracture, pointing out Willie Walsh – head of OneWorld member IAG – has publically declared his disagreement with American and the other US carriers.
Al Baker said: “I don’t think OneWorld is going to break up. My friend Doug Parker has been misled.” Parker is chief executive of American.
However, the Qatar chief executive hailed Walsh, saying: “If anyone should be screaming about competition it should be Willie Walsh.
“We operate six frequencies a day to London. Emirates operates seven a day, Etihad five or six a day. But Willie is absolutely positive about the competition.”Qatar holds a near 10% stake in British Airways parent IAG.
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