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Open skies debate back as Qatar Airways launches Atlanta service

Open skies debate back as Qatar Airways launches Atlanta service

The airline has started a daily direct route between Doha and Atlanta

The launch of Qatar Airways’ direct service between Doha and Atlanta on June 1 has reignited the open skies debate with US carriers.

The daily direct service, operated by a Boeing 777, began on June 1.

The Partnership for Open and Fair Skies – a coalition that includes American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines – hit out against the new route launch.

In a statement on Wednesday, chief spokesperson Jill Zuckman said: “With more than $17bn in government subsidies, Qatar Airways can fly wherever it wants – even if it makes no economic sense.

“In the case of the new Atlanta-Doha route beginning today, Mr. Al Baker has made it clear that his decision to fly to Atlanta was retribution against Delta Air Lines.

“The bottom line is that the blank government checks that Qatar and the other Gulf carriers receive are threatening the US aviation industry and hundreds of thousands of American jobs.”

In March, Qatar Airways chief executive officer Akbar Al Baker had said that the decision to fly to Atlanta would “rub salt in the wounds” of Delta, but said the route would not cause the airline “harm”.

Delta, whose hub is in Atlanta, retorted in April saying the route had demand of “less than five people a day”, not including connecting passengers.

In a continuation of the spat, Delta reportedly said last month that it will not renew its 20-year sponsorship of the Fox Theatre in Atlanta after Qatar Airways used the venue to host a launch party to celebrate its new route to the city.

Read more here: Delta cancels US stadium sponsorship in spat with Qatar Airways

“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.

Qatar Airways has been boosting its capacity to US, and currently flies to 10 destinations in the country, following the introduction of Los Angeles in January and Boston in March.

The airline also added a second daily flight to New York in April, doubling capacity on the route.

It now offers 5,000 seats a day between the US and Qatar.

The Partnership for Open and Fair Skies accuses the three big Gulf carriers – including Etihad Airways, Emirates and Qatar Airways 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.

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