May 14, 2015: Akbar Al Baker, Group Chief Executive for Qatar Airways, held a landmark press conference in Washington D.C. yesterday, adding the airline's voice to the ongoing US Open Skies debate. During his visit, Mr. Al Baker also met with government officials and prepared for upcoming US launches to Los Angeles, Boston, and Atlanta.
Mr. Al Baker refuted the "baseless" claims of the "Big Three" US airlines (American, Delta & United), calling them "a transparent attempt to block new competition and limit consumer choice".
"US Open Skies Agreements are about offering choice – the ability to fly with the airline you prefer, to regions which are under-served by US carriers," said Mr. Al Baker. "The Big Three want to restrict choice. World travelers would suffer if they succeed."
Speaking from the Hay-Adams Hotel, Mr. Al Baker (left) used the forum to clarify Qatar Airways' position, debunk accusations of subsidy and demonstrate the broad public benefits of the existing Open Skies Agreements.
Mr. Al Baker also noted that Open Skies Agreements go well beyond the interests of the Big Three. He cited numerous American companies and groups, which support Open Skies Agreements, including US airports, travel and trade groups, consumer groups and other US airlines.
"Qatar Airways offers important services to the United States and many American interests recognise our value. We serve markets in the Gulf region and Indian subcontinent that US carriers do not serve," Mr. Al Baker added.
Qatar Airways passengers support local economies in the US. In 2014 alone, the airline brought 248,000 visitors to the United States and made a significant contribution of $900 million to US economies and employment, all thanks to Open Skies. Qatar Airways currently operates over $19 billion worth of direct-purchase Boeing aircraft with future deliveries of another $50 billion to come.
Mr. Al Baker concluded: "The Big Three do not compete with us on a single non-stop route. The beneficial exchange of culture and commerce made possible by the US-Qatar Open Skies Agreement must not be blocked by the Big Three merely because we have chosen to serve markets that they have ignored."