Editor’s note: See updates below.
The CEO of Qatar Airways had some colorful words for his American rivals in a press conference to announce several new routes and other service improvements in New York, Mashable reported Wednesday.The harshest words appear to have been reserved for the CEO of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, who has been critical of Gulf carriers for being subsidized by their governments.
That hasn’t sat well with Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker.
During the press conference, Al Baker announced, among other things, new service next year to Atlanta, Boston and Los Angeles.
The tension between Gulf carriers — including Qatar, Emirates and Etihad — and U.S. carriers — notably Delta, United and American — has been building for some time, and Al Baker took the topic head on in the press conference on Wednesday.
Speaking of Delta CEO Richard Anderson specifically, Al Baker said that his criticisms of Gulf carriers as “governments” were “nonsense,” with the goal of stifling the competition “so he can swindle American passengers even more.”
“Let him come face to face with me in any forum,” Al Baker said of Anderson. “I will hang him on a wall.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution attempted to reach Delta representatives, but an after-hours page was not immediately returned.
To see more on Qatar’s plans and what the company’s CEO had to say, click here.
While Delta did not directly respond, a spokeswoman for the Partnership for Open and Fair Skies, a trade group backed by U.S. carriers, including Delta, and airline industry labor groups, did have a response.
In an email Thursday morning to the AJC, spokeswoman Jill Zuckman said:
“It is disappointing that Akbar Al Baker has come to the United States in order to level insults and spread misinformation. The truth is that while the Gulf carriers are dumping capacity on the U.S. thanks to their government treasuries, the U.S. airlines are forced to cut routes, harming the jobs of aviation workers and threatening domestic airline service in America. As of today, no US carrier is able to serve Dubai. The facts are clear, Qatar Airlines has received more than $17 billion in unfair subsidies and other lopsided benefits from its government sponsor – decimating any chance of fair competition and violating Open Skies agreements with the United States.”