Delta CEO Apologizes For 9/11 Comment, Emirates CEO Calls Him Out Over It

Filed Under: Delta, Emirates

It has been a heck of a week when it comes to airline drama between the “big three” US carriers and their “big three” Middle Eastern counterparts in the battle for Open Skies.

Richard Quest seems to have the “platform” for all the CEOs to express themselves, as the CEOs of Delta, Qatar, and Emirates have appeared on his “Quest Means Business” program this week.

Unfortunately Delta’s CEO, Richard Anderson, got his side of the debate off to a bad start when he made the following comment on Monday:

It’s a great irony to have the United Arab Emirates from the Arabian peninsula talk about that given the fact that our industry was really shocked by the terrorism of 9/11 which came from terrorists from the Arabian peninsula that caused us to go through a massive restructuring.

What a stupid comment to make. I think (hope?) he didn’t mean for it to come across that way, but I think there’s only one way to reasonably interpret the statement — he was trying to link the Middle Eastern airlines to the 9/11 terrorists (otherwise I’m not sure I get the “irony” he’s referring to).

While it took a while, Delta has now issued an apology… sort of… kind of… not really:

Richard was reacting to claims the gulf carriers have been making that US airlines received subsidies in the form of payments from the U.S. government after the 9/11 attacks and the bankruptcy proceedings that resulted. He didn’t mean to suggest the gulf carriers or their governments are linked to the 9/11 terrorists. We apologize if anyone was offended.


Yeah, unfortunately it seems they’re trying to justify his statement rather than just admitting he misspoke.

Emirates’ President, Tim Clark, appeared on Quest Means Business last night, and had a very smart response to Richard Anderson’s comments:

I’m not angry. I’m a little bit concerned that Mr. Anderson crossed the line with what he said in regard to 9/11, which has caused great offense in this part of the world. I wonder if Mr. Anderson thought of the feelings of his SkyTeam partners at Saudia.

Tim Clark is one of the brightest guys in the industry, and if you’re going to address the comments from Delta, that’s how you do it, in my opinion.

  1. Oh good. Now let’s get into a comments debate about how the Saudis are an innocent country, minding their own business, with full human rights for all of their citizens, who just accidentally got caught up in this debate. Every country has issues. We all know Anderson didn’t wake up and go on TV with the intent to insult or offend.

  2. maybe this will be his demise… he’d deserve it after destroying skypesos program.

    he should know better than make such politically charged comments.

  3. Neil, if you were being sarcastic, my apology, but I absolutely believe at best Anderson’s comments were cynical and at worst they were absolutely calculated to link those carriers with 9/11 and all the baggage that goes with that.

    What I do not understand is why the US airline industry (and their apologists) feels it should be mostly exempt from global competition. I grew up in Northeast Ohio and there is not one bit of the one time thriving steel or textile industries anywhere to be found. We have sacrificed a ton of industries in the US to the altar of global competition. All those industries were told it’s a new world, you have to deal with global competition now get over it. Why should US airlines be exempt from that same global competition ?

  4. RoloT, I think you (and many others from the old posts) are giving Richard Anderson WAAAAAAY too much credit. Simply put, he is a buffoon, and his rambling statement about 9/11 proves it. I don’t think he’s cynical, and I don’t think he actually meant to link gulf carriers to terrorism. He’s just an idiot. He (and the other American CEOs) are simply trying to find an excuse for why they can’t compete.

  5. @Lantean – No way in hell he loses his job over this. Won’t happen.

    @Juergen – Because maybe there aren’t better alternatives for their situation. And there are people who can make DL work for them, even with the changes to SkyPesos. And there are people who will fly DL & credit to AS, VS, FB, etc. And there are people who don’t care about miles at all. SkyPesos suck, but DL is a GOOD AIRLINE.

  6. I have zero doubt that the Richard Anderson’s line about terrorists from the Arabian Peninsula was deliberately crafted to be the response to any question about being counter-accused by the GCC 3 carriers of being publicly-subsidized.

  7. Anderson only misspoke in that it was a politically incorrect statement. Here’s the irony for the ultra/intentionally dense: many of the same very wealthy individuals who, effectively, fund the GCC airlines also fund Islamic terrorism (whose most notable “accomplishment” is 9/11). That’s not to say that there is 100% overlap, but there is some.

    I *would* ordinarily have a problem with this, but it doesn’t stop me from flying GCC airlines because they lose money either way, so I don’t feel bad about where my money is “going.”

  8. “many of the same very wealthy individuals who, effectively, fund the GCC airlines also fund Islamic terrorism”

    Who are these people exactly funding both? Any names?

  9. So we should all just fly with Aeroflot because all this? Oh wait.. Soviet Union I mean Russia government owns that. Putin just attacked and killed thousands of Ukrainians just weeks ago. So we can go back and forth with this forever..

  10. “if anyone was offended”… the classic non-apology apology… when will PR people learn that phrase is ridiculous.

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