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Delta cancels US stadium sponsorship in spat with Qatar Airways

Delta cancels US stadium sponsorship in spat with Qatar Airways

The Qatari carrier hosted a performance by Jennifer Lopez at a stadium in Atlanta last night to celebrate its route launch to the city

US carrier Delta Air Lines has reportedly said it will not renew its sponsorship of a stadium in Atlanta after Gulf rival Qatar Airways used the venue to host a launch party to celebrate its new route to the city.

Bloomberg reports that that the Qatari airline celebrated the Doha-Atlanta route launch at the Fox Theatre last night with a performance from pop star Jennifer Lopez. In response Delta said it would not renew its 20-year sponsorship of the venue hours before the show.

“When the Fox shared its decision to continue doing business with Qatar, an airline proven to engage in business practices that harm US aviation jobs and violate basic human rights, we let them know we wouldn’t be renewing our sponsorship,” Delta said in a statement.

Delta and its US counterparts American and United accuse Qatar and its Gulf rivals Emirates and Etihad of receiving billions of dollars in government subsidies.

Before the show took place yesterday, Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker was quoted as saying the airline’s new Doha-Atlanta route would “rub salt in the wounds” of his US rival, which is based in the city.

“It’s really bizarre that they are so paranoid of Qatar Airways’ service,” he was quoted as saying in response to Delta’s decision. “This shows that they have absolute disregard for the famous institutions of Atlanta.”

The Partnership for Open and Fair Skies, backed by the US airlines and trade unions, accuses the three Gulf carriers of receiving $42bn in subsidies and other benefits from their respective governments.

All three deny the accusations and have argued that US airlines received government handouts in the past through bankruptcy protection.

Qatar’s new Atlanta route will make its debut on June 1 with an Airbus A380 superjumbo before reverting to a Boeing 777-200LR for its regular service with an expected 259 seats.

The airline previously hired US singer Mariah Carey to launch its new route to Los Angeles in January.

According to Bloomberg, Delta has predicted the new Doha-Atlanta route will fail, with projections than only five people a day start their journey in the US city and end it in the Qatari capital. The US carrier ended its Atlanta-Dubai route in February saying it was unprofitable.

In contrast, Qatar Airways said its data suggested at least 16 passengers a day will fly between the two cities and many more will catch connecting flights.

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