Chief executives of Gulf carriers Emirates and Qatar Airways have criticised Delta CEO Richard Anderson for involving the 9/11 terrorist attack amidst a commercial dispute.
Earlier this week, Anderson said during an interview with CNN that he saw “great irony” in Gulf airlines criticising US aid to domestic carriers after the 2001 attacks, whose perpetrators included citizens from the Gulf.
“I’m a little bit concerned that Mr. Anderson crossed the line in some of the statements he made with regard to what went on with regard to 9/11,” Sir Tim Clark, president of Dubai-based Emirates Airline told CNN on Wednesday in a follow up interview.
“And I know that has caused great offense in this part of the world, and I’m sure will be dealt with at the governmental and state level.”
Meanwhile Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker responded to the statement saying that the Delta chief should be ashamed to drag in the issue of terrorism to cover up inefficiency.
“Mr. Anderson should be doing his job improving and competing with us instead of just crying wolf for his shortcomings in the way the airline is run,” Al Baker said in an interview with CNN.
The US-UAE Business Council President Danny Sebright also criticised Anderson in an open letter published by the daily The National, decrying the US-based airline chief’s comments as “disappointing and irresponsible”.
The Delta chief’s anti-Gulf comments come as three major US airlines- including Delta- are trying to get the US government to reverse an open skies policy, which saw the domestic carriers losing market share to their Gulf counterparts over the last seven years.
According to a report submitted by Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines to the US government, the local carriers lost at least five per cent of their bookings to India and Southeast Asia to Gulf carriers since 2008.
However, Delta Air Lines has issued a formal apology clarifying the comments made by its CEO.
“Richard was reacting to claims the Gulf carriers have been making that US airlines received subsidies in the form of payments from the US government after the 9/11 attacks and the bankruptcy proceedings that resulted,” a Delta Airlines spokesperson said.
“He didn’t mean to suggest the Gulf carriers or their governments are linked to the 9/11 terrorists. We apologise if anyone was offended.”