US Airline CEOs Disappointed By White House Meeting

Filed Under: American, Qatar

Yesterday I wrote about how President Trump had a meeting with several airline CEOs, including those from American Airlines, United Airlines, and even Qatar Airways. One of the topics of conversation was subsidies for Gulf carriers, which the US airlines just go on and on about.

This was a closed meeting, so unfortunately we don’t officially know that much about what happened, if it was catered by McDonald’s, etc. However, there are now some reports of how the conversation went, and it sounds like it may not have gone as planned for US airlines.

Trump was angry that Bastian wasn’t there

Delta’s CEO, Ed Bastian, couldn’t attend the meeting. That’s a bit surprising, given that he’s the most vocal about the Gulf carriers, so you’d think he would have done absolutely everything in his power to be there.

A Delta spokesperson claims he wasn’t there due to travel that he wasn’t able to reschedule:

“Ed unfortunately had some previously scheduled travel that he was unable to reschedule. He is appreciative of opportunities … to discuss this important issue with the president and members of the administration. Delta remains 100% committed to leveling the playing field in international aviation.”

But that’s not how it was perceived. A senior White House official said:

“The real story is that Delta refused the invite. That didn’t help their cause.”

Apparently Trump brought up several times during the meeting how Delta’s CEO wasn’t there, and Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker also pointed out how he flew all the way from Qatar to be there, while Bastian couldn’t even make the trip.

Delta 737

US airline CEOs were surprised Al Baker was there

Sources suggest that the US airline executives in attendance were “shocked” when they found out that Al Baker was invited to the meeting, given the topic they were hoping to discuss.

It’s also reported that White House trade advisor Peter Navarro wasn’t happy about Al Baker being there. A White House official had the following to say:

“The president expressly wanted the Qatar CEO as he wanted a variety of perspectives, as he always does.”

Trump tells US airlines to pound sand

The resolution from the meeting? Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Etihad have to stop service to the US effective immediately, and have to pay US carriers $50 billion for the illegal subsidies they’ve received over the past decade.

Just kidding, of course.

President Trump told US carriers to just go through the normal process of filing a complaint through federal regulators:

“The outcome was to encourage the aggrieved U.S. carriers to use the mechanisms available in law to adjudicate their grievances. That outcome would have been the same without Qatar being there.”

Of course despite nothing coming of this, US airline CEOs are still putting this meeting in a positive light. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said the following:

“We had a good meeting. Talked to the president about American jobs and the threat to American jobs from subsidized carriers outside the United States being able to fly from Europe into the United States. Had a nice audience, and I think we made a good impression.”

In fairness, at least they got a meeting with Trump over this, even if it went nowhere, while Obama wasn’t open to having a meeting on this.

For more on the Gulf perspective of this, see what Emirates President Tim Clark had to say about the meeting.

Bottom line

Despite Trump’s “America first” agenda, it’s pretty telling that he didn’t take any action, but rather told US airlines to just go through the normal processes, which likely won’t lead anywhere.

Boy how I would have loved to be there to see this, though. I can just picture it:

“Mister Donald, I flew all the way from Qatar to be here, and Mister Ed couldn’t even fly one of his old sh*t aeroplanes here from Atlanta.” *smirk*

  1. In total honesty the claims the US airlines outline are ridiculous and there’s some lack of knowledge here. Number one, Etihad and Emirates are government owned but their respective emirates which are state cities. While Etihad is tired of losing 1 to 2 billion USD a year and has ever since cut at least a third of their routes (so I can’t really see how this would be seen as a threaten), Emirates belongs to Dubai whom since 2009 is actually pouring money to the government and not the other way around. Dubai is not Abu Dhabi and doesn’t have any money to subsidize. Moreover its account are monitored and audited as per standard international practice. The only airline that could subsidize their operation is Qatar Airways and I’m in no position to say whether this happens or not. But hey, something here is also not fully disclosed or lets say refreshed to the audience. Qatar right now is isolated by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrein and Egypt. In other words, I live in Dubai and I can’t take Qatar to fly to the US. So I can’t see that as too much of a threaten either.

    Now let’s come to the most juicy part. Since a few months I am only considering flying to Dallas via London with a codeshare BA+AA. They offer Premium Economy and it’s a good compromise between Business (which costs for an A/R trip same as someone’s yearly wage) or economy which is not a healthy option for a 16 hours non stop flight. Parallel to this, BA is not complaining and making worthy record profits. In other words, all of this animosity is baseless. People like me who live in the UAE actually mostly often opt for different alternatives, de facto, diverting business from the Gulf rivals. If AA was really thinking this through it would have a huge opportunity in the ME market. And I really mean huge. AA intercontinental flights are punctual, with great service and awesome 777’s. I’d not think it twice with the right prices.

  2. “In fairness, at least they got a meeting with Trump over this, even if it went nowhere, while Obama wasn’t open to having a meeting on this.”

    Why on Earth do you think “a meeting with Trump” achieves anything whatsoever?

  3. Even if Bastian is not pro-Trump, I wonder why he refused the invite. I’m also curious whether the board of directors of Delta all agreed that Bastian should not attend. After all, as CEO of any company one would think you’d want to be in the good side of the President. Trump knows this given how he has supported both Dems and Reps in the past (pretty much whoever is in power.) Anyways, only time will tell if this was a smart or foolish move from Bastian.

  4. If you have flown with the ME3 you would know why the big American carriers complain.
    They have no hope of competing in terms of customer service, comfort, lounges – the list goes on they get beaten on every point.
    I dread every time having to use US domestic services (if you can call it that..) absolutely horrible, dehumanising experience more akin to cattle driving.
    If you want to talk about subsidies and uneven playing fields explain how many chapter 11 decisions the US airlines have availed themselves of….
    American carriers are the pits…..sorry to my American friends but it’s true.

  5. This feels like when Saudi Arabia killed that journalist. Trump basically came out and said that country pushes too much money to the U.S. for me to do something about one person. Let’s not forget that there is an Air Force base in Qatar and that they very recently bought $12B in military assets for the U.S.

  6. Lol this is just so pathetic. Why don’t they file grievances about Chinese carriers whose fuel is subsidized by their government? That’s a much biggest issue i’d Say? Lol just too funny

  7. This is good news for consumers. Action against the gulf carriers would have resulted in less options and higher airfares.

  8. It’s just this simple. The middle eastern airlines signed an open skies agreement with the US government. An important part of the agreement was that they would not receive government funding. In return the US government opened up its markets to them. They’ve not honored the agreement and it should be revoked and Emirates, Etihad and Qatar banned from flying to the US.
    The US gets screwed by other nations during trade negotiations…or foreign nations don’t follow the intent of the agreement and our Congress does NOTHING! Other nations just laugh at us…the middle eastern governments just buy-off our politicians so they will do NOTHING to protect American jobs. The governments supporting the middle eastern airlines are DYNASTIC MONARCHIES, AUTOCRACIES and have no consideration of human rights or the rule of law. They have every intention of using their artificial advantages to fly to every corner of the world, though they have NO INTENTION of growing beyond a feudalism (circa the 700’s) and actually open their closed societies. If you are a US citizen and you have anything to do with these companies…shame on you.

  9. Whether life is fair or not is not as important as the fact that DAL has a responsibility to its shareholders to protect its business from unfair foreign competition. The US has watched one industry after another be decimated by foreign competitors, only for Americans to wake up and realize they can’t compete any longer.

    DAL has been the most vocal of the big 3 US airlines in their charges against the Middle East 3 airlines but DAL’s point in taking the campaign public is because consumers always vote with the pocketbooks over their principles unless they know the difference. When consumers know the facts, people do change their buying habits which is why charges of substandard working conditions in other countries against big US companies that import products do force change. DAL is simply helping consumers understand that American jobs are at stake and that US airlines are not competing against airlines but against countries that are trying to build their economies.

    The difficulty of the discussion is because the Middle East airlines have bought and are committed to buying hundreds of Boeing aircraft, which they think gives them the right to destroy US airline jobs. They did the same thing in Europe with Airbus, esp. the A380 which exists only because the ME3 airlines bought it and even with them has still not solid in large enough numbers to ever be profitable. It is never good trade policy for one US industry to win at the expense of another. If the ME3 airlines are viable long-term, they will buy Boeing aircraft.

    Congress is hearing the arguments of the big 3 US airlines and the chances are that they will act in some form. At the same time, political and economic battles between Qatar and the UAE are hurting their own businesses; they also are facing European and Asian airlines that are learning how to better compete.

    DAL stock is not being held back by the ME3 because airlines have mobile factories. DAL can and has moved airplanes out of subsidized markets. Halting the growth of the ME3 airlines will provide growth markets not just for DAL but also for AAL and UAL. The ME3 also have the legal right to start routes from many countries in Europe to the US on flights that originate in the Middle East. The risk is if more of these routes are added. Many countries including Canada and a number of countries in E. Asia recognize the damage the Middle East airlines have done to their airline industry and allow limited access to the ME3 airlines, if any at all.

    The US3 battle with the ME3 airlines is about protecting US airline jobs and ensuring that the open market system which governs air service between the US and most countries is truly based on free markets and not distorted by subsidies which nearly every other country has dictated are not permissible in international aviation.

  10. It’s funny how US-airlines are vehemently against government involvement in the airline business, but then they demand their own government intervenes in the hope it imposes unfair restrictions on overseas carriers! Kind of like telling the referee to get rid of the the referees… huh??!

    Additionally, why were they shocked that Qatar’s CEO was there? Or they only wanted to push their own agenda?

  11. When the most powerful person in the world invites you to a meeting to discuss something that you have been so vocal about you attend. No ifs, ends, or buts.

    That’s a massive leadership failure.

  12. countries That want to protect poor products and services the excuse for not allowing competition is always jobs.

  13. As the largest airline in the world American Airlines CEO should have more say than other airlines .
    President Trump will continue to do what is best for America.

  14. Possibility 1: Bastian truly couldn’t make it to a meeting with the most powerful man on Earth. If so, he and his entire staff are incompetent

    Possibility 2: Bastian snubbed the President. If so, he and the Board are idiots.

    Especially given the temperament of our President who sees all transactions as personal

    I recently had several mission critical meetings packed back to back. Then a last minute request came in from a high level regulator who can make or break my entire field. I huddled with my team, delegated every mission critical meeting to them, and had my Assistant wipe my schedule so I could meet with the VIP.

    I then huddled with each of my team and reached out to all canceled appointments to control the fallout.

    That’s the job.
    Bastian is Lucky his team is hitting on all other cylinders

  15. Attention American Monopoly Carriers :
    It’s simple want to get me off Middle East Carriers?
    Try releasing award inventory in a published saver award consistently
    in the lowest bucket if it still exists any more

    Delta United & American continue to rape and rob
    their customers like shooting @ fish in a barrel
    I’ll keep flying luxuriously on Middle Eastern carriers and avoid their programs and flights where possible
    So when Delta asks for 350 k to 500,000 miles one way for their Antique business class
    I will continue to fly in ME brands featuring the A380 or 777 for 75k to 100 k instead
    For those reasons let the US carriers pound sand
    0 sympathy for their greed and out of control business behavior
    No we don’t have to take being ripped off as business as normal

  16. Another example of the US3 getting kicked in the teeth for their ridiculous arguments against the ME3. Bastian just didn’t want to get embarrassed. You know things didn’t go their (US3) way when there wasn’t a pro-jobs tweet immediately following the meeting.

  17. Al Baker did say Trump was a good friend of his. Maybe even the type of man your president would sing praises for. “My good friend here, Akbar, is one of the greatest airline CEOs out there. And trust me, I know airlines. He runs Qatar, one of the best out there, as you might know. They fly some pretty important American made planes, they’re very nice to us the Qataris, hosting our soldiers in the SOCCENT military base..”

    Ed must’ve had a very good reason such as a personal friend or family member’s wedding, graduation, birth, or grieve illness. He could hire covert spin doctors and say it was out of moral concerns but of course the risk of that backfiring would be too big.

  18. All three of the US legacy carriers have declared bankruptcy. That’s a subsidy. when Delta did it all there long time staff lost there pensions because all these carriers care about is their bottom line.

    The “argument” legacy carriers have with ME carriers is baseless and on the face of it looks agoraphobic, it’s exactly what the orange guy is doing: race baiting to scare people. “Oh those brown foreign people are ruining in our business”. It’s Offensive. And as many other commenters point out it seems to works against them. Anyone here stopped flying ME Arline’s?

    Oh and Obama didn’t have this meeting because this meeting was pointless.

  19. Sounds like an unproductive meeting among people who spend 99.997% of their waking hours focused on how they can further their personal interests at the expense of everyone around them, sounds like a great outcome.

  20. @Jason @JRMW On the Forbes most powerful people list, it’s Xi Jinping and not Trump. Trump is at #3

  21. Delta’s Y seats on their long haul planes are larger than any of the ME3’s. I wouldn’t say the jury is out on comfort at the back of the bus…

  22. @Michael Jackson Harrison

    They aren’t going to file grievances against the Chinese carriers because the US3 are (subjectively) better than just about every mainland Chinese carrier.

    Maybe if they start to improve their product, they won’t have to worry as much about the ME3 cutting into their business. I think most US consumers would prefer to fly on American airlines (not AA), but Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar are just so much better.

    Also, if the US3 really wants to point to a certain factor hindering their competition against the ME3, they should start pointing to unions and all of the restrictive labor and business regulations that the ME3 aren’t subjected to in their own countries. Start petitioning the US government to help you compete instead of whining to them about how the ME3 are kicking your a**

  23. Just as i expected. Like i wrote yesterday, Trump had been touting the sale of 5 freighters & GE engines to Qatar Airways about a week ago or so saying jobs are being created in the US as a result of the deal.

    Did anyone really think that he would sing a different tune and side with the US Big3? That deal was worth more to him than saying “unfair competition”.

    Ed Bastian most certainly knew what the outcome would be and couldn’t be bothered to attend. He rather wisely spent his time watching cat videos!

  24. “The president expressly wanted the Qatar CEO as he wanted a variety of perspectives, as he always does.” Yet another WH lie. Maybe not now, but somewhere down the road, Trump is going to receive something for his personal benefit from either Al Baker or the Qatar government for this invite.

  25. @D3KingAmerican, lol that’s a pretty silly comment for a number of reasons. Did you know that outside of North America, the US3 are very minor on the world stage? And by international destinations served, AA and DL appear at number 9 (jointly). Even Ethiopian Airlines flies to more countries. So maybe we should base it on that?

  26. They should’ve brought Slavic hookers and a wheelbarrow full of bacon cheeseburgers. Two minutes of staring at that, and he’d sign over five aircraft carriers to JetBlue if they asked for it.

    Don’t blame the leering, lusting, illiterate carnival barker for being bad at his job. Blame the fools who put him there.

  27. @Raghav Kapur Every US President is the most powerful person on earth simply because they are commander and chief of the world’s moth lethal military.

    That may not be Forbe’s standard but I can assure you…that’s how adversaries of the US view POTUS.

  28. How did a struggling airline, Air Italy, manage to buy so many brand new planes? Guess we’ll never know…

  29. @Hosea says:
    July 20, 2019 at 11:06 am “Congrats to Ed Bastian for skipping a meeting with a high profile white nationalist”

    Maybe Bastian was meeting with anti-semite Ilhan Omar and Alexandria “don’t criticize us racist white Pelosi” Ocasio-Cortez!!!

  30. Mark J. Holt – I think you’re confused over why the rest of the world laughs at America. It has nothing to do with trade deals allegedly not being fair, we’re laughing at the “calibre” of people who live there. Nowadays moreso because we’d cry if we weren’t laughing!

  31. the big three whine about American jobs, except they neglect to mention how many mechanics lost their jobs because they wanted to offshore their heavy maintenance. Freaking hypocrites

  32. Ed clearly knows when you’d be wasting your time, with that posse of dullards.
    And catered by McDonalds? Classy!

  33. Love listening to a worldwide bunch of America haters conspicuously motivated by envy. Remember, envy is merely greed’s twin brother with an inferiority complex.

  34. Possibility 3: maybe Ed didn’t want to make time for an idiot? When he heard AK is involved he knew it would have been a waste of time.

  35. The American carriers received a huge subsidy when they dumped their pension plans onto the federal government during their various trips into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Their hypocrisy is stunning.

  36. There is very little threat from Air Italy so little to gain with this meeting. Bastian let AA and UA carry the water. As the political campaign heats up and Trump appears set on stoking his base with blatant or thinly veiled racist attacks, many CEOs will find it in their interest to avoid meeting with and praising Trump. Same thing happened after Charlottesville when CEOs withdrew from Trump’s advisory council forcing it to disband.

  37. When you are a CEO and the President asks to see you, don’t blow him off. That was very, very stupid.

  38. Maybe Ed Bastion is in fact more principled than many here assume. Also declining Trump’s invite could be a good business move. Or maybe he just doesn’t care for McDonalds rubbish.

  39. @woot, you are correct. It would sting sitting in a room with the president and telling BS stories which would all be beaten down in rebuttal through Al Akbar. It’s not unlike telling bad stories about someone while they are part of the conversation and can correct any inconsistent erroneous statement in real time!

  40. American, Delta and United all used bankruptcy — taxpayer/employee subsidies derived from government sponsored tax loopholes — to give them an unfair advantage over the competition. And American has an agreement with its flight attendant union allowing the airline to hire foreign national flight attendants in Latin America. The union allows for 2.75% of the total flight attendant headcount, which the union reported to be 25,569 in the 2018 DOL filing.

  41. So, let me get this straight. The US CEOs were upset that the competition was there? The competition that they were there to complain about? Because the CEO of the competition would offer the president a different perspective? Unreal…

    I do believe that the ME3 have several unfair advantages which they unfairly take advantage of, but I also believe that the US3 are their own worst enemies. They create their own problems the majority of the time.

    Kudos to President Trump for wanting to get all points of view on this issue. Shame on Ed Bastian Delta for choosing not to attend a well-publicized event that was created to hear his point of view. Given that Delta has been the most ardent critic of the ME3, unless a Delta plane crashed, God forbid, he needed to be there.

  42. “Qatar agreed to Buy Boeing Aircrafts in “Very Large transaction” D.Trump said so there must be some reciprocity in the deal of course.
    No point for American Carriers CEOs to meet D.Trump when it was made public by Trump that Qatar was buying US Aircrafts because if Qatar Airlines are spending money on US Aircrafts they expect to have access to US skies.Logical.

  43. JRG
    I doubt if you have any idea about anything. Spend time researching rather than shooting from the hip.
    Just another “hate Trump” jerk.

  44. I use to fly AA exclusively to CHINA on business class, now I fly exclusively QATAR on business class. The food is much better on Qatar, The service is much much better, and the prices are sometimes 40% below those of AA. The transit time is 7-8 hours longer through DOHA, but they offer a much superior product. I have flown over 800miles on AA, but unless they mess up this QATAR route for me, I have no reason to put up with bad service, and bad food. Qatar has dine on demand, restaurant quality meals, courteous service, at much lower pricing. If you have never flown QATAR, do not speak without seeing the difference. The whole point of earning miles and upgrades on AA is ridiculous because availability even for my EXP status is poor. So why be loyal to a company who doesn’t reward loyalty? My suggestion is that AA fly their employees on QATAR and learn a few things about why the competition is winning.

  45. Gulf carrier should not have a competitive advantage to US carriers and it does cost US jobs. But as an 36+ year employee of one of these US carriers I have witnessed these same CEO’s that are crying to President Trump outsource ten’s of thousands of US Aircraft Maintenance jobs to third world countries, and looking to increase that number every day. This is not being done because the work is done better in these countries but because it pads the bottom line of these airlines. Not only does it cost jobs it creates security issues. As for American Airlines it has no problem taking this so called dirty money from Qatar Airline at JFK Airport. If they are looking for help from President Trump or anyone else in Washington they should only receive such help when they start to bring back the jobs they outsourced. My suggestion to these CEO’s, before you pass judgment look in the mirror. Also why don’t you let the US flying public know where you take your aircraft for major overhaul. I’m sure it won’t give them comfort flying having that info.

  46. @Angelo

    I live in Dubai since 16 years and I can assure you that the two UAE carriers work with open books. Their accounts are audited by third parties according to international standards. But there’s more into this. Dubai doesn’t live thanks to Oil since year 2000 (approx) and due to the size of its airline, can’t possibly subsidize it. On the contrary, EK is distributing profit to Dubai. So for a fact Emirates isn’t subsidized. Etihad, due to the past years losses (each time I read the numbers I start shivering) if it was subsidized then it would be either profitable or at least not in such a huge loss. Moreover it has dramatically reduced the routes, hence it can’t be possibly seen as a threat in my view. For instance I fly to Dallas and Etihad has stopped that route since more than one year back.
    Now there’s only one left. Qatar Airways. We are now on year three of the blockage. I cannot fly via Doha from the UAE since 2017. Neither anybody can from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The airline is not making profit and in fact it has been hit bad by the current situation.

    US airlines have been in profit for the last few years and in fact they’ve been in excellent health. Funny enough the most profitable has been Delta which is the one that has complained the most.

    Do you want to laugh further? I live in Dubai and I fly via London because direct flights are simply unaffordable for me for the long routes. So 90% of my business goes to BA and AA and I am very very pleased with the value for money. So I hope this answers the doubt of the competitive advantages the ME3 are thought to have on the US3.

  47. How many comments here bashing the US airlines, or arguing against them, criticizing them or praising the ME3 are just trolls for those companies, or for the middle eastern airlines ?

    It’s the old ‘the poster doth protest too much’

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