Qatar Airways brought 248,000 visitors to the US and made a contribution of $900 million to US economies and employment in 2014, the airline’s group CEO has said.
Speaking at Washington DC, Akbar Al Baker called for the US government to continue its open skies agreement, saying that it had led to significant economic ties.
The airline currently operates over $19 billion worth of direct-purchase Boeing aircraft with future deliveries of another $50 billion to come, he said.
His comments come as the US government reviews allegations by the country’s three big carriers – American, Delta and United, that the three big Gulf carriers – Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways received subsidies worth $42 billion from their respective governments.
Al Baker refuted the “baseless” claims of the US airlines, 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,” he said.
“The big three (US carriers) want to restrict choice. World travellers would suffer if they succeed.”
Qatar Airways recently announced that it would launch three new passenger routes to the US, including to Los Angeles, Boston and Atlanta from 2016. The carrier also confirmed that it would add a second daily service to New York from March 1, 2016, thanks to increased passenger demand on the route.
Once the new routes are operational, the airline will expand its services to 10 destinations in the US.
“The big three do not compete with us on a single nonstop route. We serve markets in the Gulf region and Indian subcontinent that US carriers do not serve,” Al Baker said.
“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,” he added.
Speaking In response, Jill Zuckman, chief spokesperson for the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, which is spearheading the US carriers’ demands, said: “Akbar Al Baker said he was coming to the US to ‘open the books,’ but all we heard today was more name calling and denials.
“It’s unfortunate that he won’t answer serious questions about the $17.5 billion in subsidies and unfair benefits that Qatar Airways has taken from its government in order to undermine fair competition, which is a serious violation of open skies.”