Delta Management’s Maturity Hits A New Low…

Qatar Airways will soon be launching service to Atlanta, a route which the airline’s CEO, Akbar Al Baker, says is designed to “rub salt in the wound of Delta” (I’m not sure what that “wound” is, exactly, given how profitable Delta is). To piss Delta off even further, they’re flying an A380 to Atlanta for the inaugural flight (subsequently it will be operated by a 777).


I think it’s worth noting that the ridiculousness between the two airlines isn’t a one way street. Delta’s former CEO, Richard Anderson, even linked the Gulf carriers to 9/11, so I don’t know which side has been more ridiculous throughout all this.

When it comes to ridiculousness, Delta just took it to the next level, though. For over 20 years Delta has been a sponsor of The Fox Theatre in Atlanta. However, Delta has just announced that they will no longer sponsor The Fox Theatre as of May 31, 2017, when their contract expires. Why? Because the theatre rented space to Qatar Airways for an event they’re hosting, at which Jennifer Lopez will be performing.


Per, here’s the explanation from Delta’s chief legal officer:

Delta’s chief legal officer Peter Carter said the reason can be traced back to a harsh comment Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker made about Delta.

“When the CEO of Qatar first told the world that they would be flying to Atlanta, what he told the world was that he was going to start a flight from Doha to Atlanta… to rub salt in the wounds of Delta,” Carter said. “So we were very surprised and disappointed when we learned that the Fox Theatre — an organization that we’ve supported for years, an organization that has called us its official airline — we were shocked and surprised when we learned that they were hosting the coming out party for Qatar.”

“We felt that, you know, a real friend would have contacted us and had a conversation with us, and so we thought it was time for us to re-evaluate that relationship. And so we won’t be supporting the Fox going forward,” Carter said. “We were disappointed that we didn’t get a phone call, because I think a phone call would have probably prevented the whole thing.”

Meanwhile the theatre points out that they don’t follow the politics of their sponsors, but rather they were just renting out space to Qatar Airways, like they would to anyone else:

The Fox said in a written statement that private events are “distinctly independent of any corporate sponsorship program.”

Hosting a private function for Qatar Airways “was in no way a violation of our contractual agreement with Delta,” according to the Fox. “As we are not in tune with the industry politics of our sponsors, we are disheartened to learn that Delta has chosen to penalize the Fox Theatre for our decision to rent the venue to another airline.”

Delta-One-London - 3

Unbelievable! In theory I see Delta’s point, but it’s such a stretch that it’s ridiculous. The theatre probably had no clue of the dispute between Delta & Qatar, and rented them the space like they would to any other company. Does Delta want the theatre to call them before they rent out space to anyone, to see if they’re okay with it?

Furthermore, let’s look at the actual effect of this. Delta is punishing the people of Atlanta, the people who actually visit the non-profit theatre and enjoy the performances. With this they’re simply hurting the Atlanta community, and not anyone else. Real classy, Delta…

It’s not often I root for Qatar Airways (because Akbar Al Baker is just so unlikable), but…


(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing and Rene’s Points)


  1. YAAASSSS!!!! Having Qatar step up and say that they’ll sponsor the theater if Delta decides to follow through on the threat to walk away would be the ultimate.

  2. AAB, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE sponsor the Fox Theatre! Maybe even negotiate a name change, the “Qatar Airways Fox Theatre,” perhaps. That would be the most fantastic thing, possibly ever.

  3. While it is outlandish, any organization that values their stakeholders (or sponsors), shouldn’t be claiming ignorance. To have said that Fox is independent of their sponsor, fine, but claiming ignorance makes then just look dumb. They could have taken the high road and left it at their independence, and they may’ve been the first (lol). I bet you that Qatar knew full well that Fox was a sponsored by Delta. Bad on Delta for their part, but Fox shouldn’t be admitting to ignorance–at least not if they wanted to keep Delta as a sponsor. It’s stakeholder management 101.

  4. There is no way in hell that the Fox Theatre didn’t know about the bad blood between DL & the ME3. If they really didn’t, they have got to be the stupidest people in the history of stupid.

  5. ‘World Class FOX Theatre by Qatar Airways’ subtitle ‘climbing higher than Delta’

  6. If you have a sponsor, you always look out for that sponsor in your business dealings. Either you decline the one-off engagement (with Qatar) or you put them on hold and call your brand/legal contact at DL and discuss how best to handle it. Ignorance is no excuse, it’s bad management at the theatre. If I were DL I would have done the same thing.

  7. Actually, a courtesy call would have been appropriate. In my past life with a high-profile, premium brand, we would often have verbiage in our hotel/event space contracts outlining brands we wouldn’t want to be in house at the same time. The hotel would contact us if a competitor wanted to be on property during the same time frame and we could say yay or nay. Not quite the same situation, but from that previous experience (10 years of it) I can totally see how Delta may see it as an issue. I’m not sure what the extent of the sponsorship is/was, but if substantial the Fox should indeed be better educated on potential sticky situations and competitors. I am Team Delta on this one, but do feel the “response” from the Chief Legal Officer was too casually stated. I think you have to have worked in a similar brand situation to understand Delta’s side. I totally get it.

  8. I’m with Delta here. Fox Theatre should have known better. Sponsorships are business arrangements. Fundraising is big business and you look out for your sponsors especially in a situation like this where Qatar Airways is in a bitter feud with them and most likely sought out the Fox due to Delta being affiliated. If I’m Delta I take it a step further and go to ATL airport management and remind them who their largest customer is before the airport rolls out the celebratory water canon salute for the new route. AAB is a tool and Qatar Airways deserves all the heat his mouth brings upon it.

  9. Fox theater is not an impoverished theater for the under-served by the arts. They are a massive operation, and as such they should’ve known better. This is poor management by the theater first and foremost, but Delta should not have immediately announced an end to their sponsorship, either… particularly since it still has 18 months remaining on their current deal. They should’ve just not renewed it and privately let the theater know why…

  10. Fox Theater should have known better. This is a reasonable decision by Delta. Qatar has a horrible human rights record. I hope Atlanta residents will boycott them.

  11. Should Fox Theater call Delta each time they rent out the theater? Of course not. Should they call “The Official Airline of Fox Theater” when they rent it out to another airline? I’d say so. There is a reason there are sponsors.

  12. I think those who defend Delta on this don’t realize what kind of a bubble we live in. We all know of the Qatar/Delta feud. But, who outside of a group like this would even care? I won’t defend Qatar as an airline or a country for various reasons. But, I honestly cannot imagine that the majority of people, citizens of Atlanta, the business community or even Delta flyers give a damn about, or pay any attention to, a feud between rival airlines.

    This is pure pettiness on Delta’s side. A simple call to Fox to deal with your issues would have been the appropriate way of dealing with it. Not this childish jackassery

  13. Seems “tricky Dick’s ” legacy lives on at DL! That’s pretty tacky, not that I don’t understand that they should have contacted DL before of course if they had refused that would or could have blown up in their faces as well. For me I just booked EK paid Biz class to Cape Town, and did not even think of DL.

  14. I wouldn’t expect the theater to know about the feud, but I would expect them to pick up the phone when a competitor of a major sponsor wants to book an event. Just as a courtesy. I’d expect them to check in whether it’s Qatar, American, JetBlue, any major airline. It’s just due diligence. That said, they should leave this out of the press. A pissed off phone call from a higher up to management and max, not renewing when the time comes. Putting it all out there just makes them sound petty and childish.

  15. I’m with those who support (or are sympathetic to) Delta. Also, wouldn’t mind seeing them ban J-Lo from all DL flights.

  16. Delta is in the right here. As others have mentioned, the Fox Theater certainly knows that Delta is one of its biggest financial supporters. For that reason alone, it should have notified Delta of its intent to host any event sponsored by any other airline — Qatar, American, Air Mongolia, whoever — and should have at least listened to any concern that Delta might have voiced. The issue is not whether Delta’s sponsorship contract allows the Fox to host a competitor’s event, but whether the Fox should have agreed to host such an event without thinking about how Delta would react. “Don’t piss off your donors” is a basic tenet of non-profit management.

  17. “Don’t piss off your customers” is also a basic tenet of for-profit management which is why I have not purchased nor redeemed a Delta flight ticket in over a decade.

  18. I’m with Marc on this one. J-Lo should be banned from Delta for acting in concert with the enemy. Nicole Kidman too. Oh, and Jennifer Aniston. Also, anyone who attends a movie, play, concert, or any event at all featuring any of the above performers in any capacity. Show them that if you thwart Delta in any way, you’re just un-American!

  19. Knowing the tension (or, at a minimum, they should have known of the tension), this was an unthoughtful decision on the part of the theater. Biting the hand that feeds you.

    They don’t serve Coke at the Pepsi Center.

  20. Of course Fox, in the land of Delta, would know the impact of Qatar’s arrival.
    They probably knew there’s some competition for public image in town, too.

    Delta is trying to scare Atlanta’s businesses into loyalty, and frankly, that doesn’t go well on your home turf. I’m based in Seattle, and true loyalty is how Alaska still can fend off Delta.

  21. I’m with Qatar on this. Delta is one good old sport southern network of idiots.

  22. If I were a non profit, I would make it my business to follow the big news of my major sponsor. While it may be childish behavior by delta, if the fox seriously wasn’t following what was happening at delta, they don’t deserve a sponsor.

  23. As someone who buys and sells sponsorships, I can tell you this was completely the Fox Theater’s fault. You never even invite any participation by a competitor of a major sponsor without first discussion it with the sponsor. Whether there are any contractual terms, it is the first rule of sponsorship marketing. Delta is spending 6 figures and they deserve the appreciation of being contacted before any airline participates in the Theater for that six figure payment. Just as Lexus deserves before any other auto companies, or Coke and Budweiser before other soft drink or beer companies. It is a truly just good business, to always maintain the relationship with sponsors with constant communication and never surprise them with a relationship with one of their competitors. I am confident that Delta can reallocate those sponsorship dollars to other Atlanta institutions and get a better return on their sponsorship investment. Just pure incompetence by the Fox Theater fund raising department.

  24. Delta is just nauseating. I hope Qatar starts to sponsor lots of businesses in Atlanta.

  25. While business wise I think Fox theater is in the wrong on this, Delta is a terrible airline, unless you’re Nick “the cold mozzarella and tomato appetizer was -so- amazing!”

  26. The Fox is a theatre run by a non-profit, not some premium brand. Delta may or may not have been in the right on paper, but for them to send that statement is extremely petty. Also, aside from a small subset of us, no one knows and gives a shit about the Delta-Qatar nonsense. Seriously, how many here would actually know who Akbar Al Baker is or really gives a shit what says without Lucky posting about it?

    Pulling sponsorship from a non-profit is never a good PR move. Delta is cutting cost left and right and this is just their way of using some bullshit excuse to pull sponsorship and cut cost.

  27. Look, Delta management should be proud of their recent gains in the past few years. The Glen Hauenstein wizard has done a good job. However that turkey needs to learn how to compete with the ME3 and set things straight in stead of complaining.

  28. Huh…I’ve got a game of baseball in MY backyard with MY ball and MY bat and my rival shows up with my good friend…what do I do? I take my stuff and leave! Good on you, Delta.

    @WildCow – seems like they’re dealing with Qatar pretty well, and they’re not complaining they’re just taking their money. It’s naive to think that Qatar didn’t know exactly what it was doing booking that venue…and they were probably stunned that the venue took the bait! They must be laughing at all this and it’s the poor theater that will bear the brunt of it. Guess that low paid scheduler at the Fox will be looking for work soon…

  29. I’m from Atlanta and I love the Fox Theater and despise Delta. Qatar Air coming to Atlanta is great news for international flyers, and moves like this by Delta continue to show the people of Atlanta the true character of this company. Delta seems to think that all of Atlanta love them, but the truth is many people here don’t like Delta and are hoping more international carriers will add Atlanta.

  30. And once again, a prominent gay blogger decides to side with one of the most homophobic nations because he stands to benefit from being their mouthpiece. This is privilege in its finest.

  31. Delta’s also kicking up a sh*t storm in Seattle by pushing Alaska out of the pride parade. The Seattle Pride organizers are just as responsible, of course, but Christ these Delta clowns are looking pretty thin skinned nowadays. Poor brand mangement, at a minimum.

  32. I mean, the Chief legal officer says this childish thing in these words? If I were delta I would fire this lawyer. I feel so bad for this nonprofit theatre. If deltas real reason was to not renew anyway they should have framed it a better way… This should get more social media attention and people should know about this deltas nasty move

  33. This does seem quite childish and churlish on the part of Delta, but at the same time I don’t believe for one second that Fox had no idea at all of the spat between Delta and Qatar.

  34. Qatar is Anti-Gay and has terrible human rights. Why are you supporting them? Why should Delta have their name anywhere close to them?

  35. I do not really think it is a far fetched thing – I find it reasonable for a company to end sponsorships to organisations which choose to conduct business with a competitor. I bet there was talks behind the scenes before the public announcement.
    All that being said (and I think it’s a very sound business decision by Delta), it still would be cool if QR sponsors the theatre 😀

  36. it’s not dumb by all means, many companies managed to survive and to be successful even though they made things for Nazzi army and Hitler himself and it shouldn’t be like that, why Boss exists today, VW, Porsche, Loreal… they all gave money to the monster to kill people, they all dressed and motorized his nazzi army, and look at them today, flourishing instead of being in prison for life, same with the theater, you play with my arch enemy and you know it, you are history to me. I wish they’ll close for good for not so honest “mistakes” they did.

  37. This is the Fox’s fault. They should be discussing potential relationships with any competitor with a major sponsor. I’m pretty sure that they wouldn’t be hosting a Pepsi event, so they shouldn’t host an event for another major airline. Atlanta is smaller town. The Fox should know better.

  38. Let’s leave the airlines out of this and look at it from a different industry. If The Fox theatre had a major donor called Coca Cola (which also is based in Atlanta) and wants rents it to Pepsi for a huge headlining event… Wouldn’t Coca Cola want at least a courtesy call? (even more bitter battles how about what if it was a politician from one party as a major contributor and the politician from the other party, the challenger in the Nov election, wants to rent it and have a party?)

    If you are for-profit and are not dependent on generosity of companies giving you money to stay open.. Sure.. Rent it out to whomever you’d like to.. But not when donors are involved.. The Theatre should have known their donor’s business.

    But on Delta…. Don’t let your lawyer speak.. If you are angry at Fox theatre.. Just not renew your contribution when the time comes and blame it on other strategic priorities. Let the PR person spin the story cause you Delta looks like a petty childish jack ass right now.

  39. @Lucky

    You should read some of the comments made by Akbar Al Baker made at the press conference launching service to Atlanta, if you haven’t already. I think you’ll find them quite entertaining.

  40. So following that logic – DL will be cutting ties with other companies that rent space to QR… ATL, DFW, LAX, MIA, IAD, JFK, BOS, ORD, YUL, LHR, CDG etc etc etc

    I detest Ali Baker and QR as much as anybody but DL really are behaving like a spoilt pre-teen girl.

  41. Yeah, most of the commenters here have it right. Delta was completely right on this one.

    And it’s naive to think the theater should know about the ME3 battle. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. But here’s the thing. You’re sponsored by an airline. Another airline wants to book the venue. You gotta call your sponsor and ask what they think. Having seen a lot of these contracts, there is always very specific language about conflicts, exclusivity, etc.

    This is big business, man. DL just deferred 4 of its A350s. The ME3 threat is real. Now, I’m not saying I agree with everyone’s tactics, but you gotta be consistent.

    DL has spent tons building its brand. The planes are all painted the same – unlike AA (newer merger) and UA (still, really?) – the experience is pretty good, most of the planes look good inside. The crews are happy. And on and on.

    Brands matter. And this is just one example of how smart companies manage their brands.

  42. I always think the South is all about relationships. I looked at the Fox theater’s website and Delta is one of few major sponsors of the theater. I’m quite certain they have relationship managers who meet weekly or something like that and if I were Delta, I would be pissed off too — but I would have told Fox theater in private and simply not renew the contract. No need to make this public.
    You’re right that we live in an aviation bubble, but someone in Fox Theater who specifically handles its relationship with Delta as a major sponsor should also know a little bit about the aviation industry.

  43. I seriously doubt that the theater knows anything about the US3 v ME3 feuds. A lot of my American friends don’t even know the names of the ME3 airlines. In fact, just yesterday I was describing EK and my friend eventually piped up “oh, is that the one with the Jenifer Aniston commercial?” Doubt he remembers the name Emirates today. I think we have to remember that we as a group take a special interest in this industry and are more informed than most about these things.

    I think the Fox Theater definitely could have handled this better as another airline wanted to use their space so Delta has every right to be upset. I do think they’re reaction is amplified by the fact that it is QR; I don’t think it would be the case if it were OS or RJ. I often side with the ME3 in these situations mostly because I don’t think the ME3 compete with the US3 on most routes, so I’ve always been dubious of their claims. But Delta definitely had every right to get a phone call when another airline wanted to use a Delta sponsored venue.

  44. To all the folks who are siding with Delta on this issue, i have a simple question for you. Did you get a courtesy notification from Delta recently when they bumped up the price for a saver award from US to Middle East from 140,000 to 170,000? Removing the award charts from their website is also another Delta courtesy.

  45. Qatar Airways attempting to sponsor the Fox would have even bigger implications and I’m sure even more people would boycott be offended with Qatar’s record on human rights. There was a small protest yesterday and that would only grow and hurt the Fox if there was talk of a Sponsorship. Also, I agree with Delta on this even though in terms of flying and airlines- my experiences flying Qatar Airways is a million times better than Delta. Wish they had this flight two years ago.

  46. @Takhliq Khan – You’re kinda answering your own argument.

    If I am annoyed with Delta’s Skymiles program, I’m free to fly another airline.

    If they don’t like how the companies they sponsor are treating them, they are free to end the deal and find other companies to sponsor.

  47. For those that are backing Delta, it would be like Citi Field (Mets Stadium) not allowing JPMorgan, DB, Goldman, etc to buy boxes to host clients (which these banks do) under the guise that only Citigroup can host clients at “their stadium.” No one would back Citi in that case so why back Delta here.

    How about another example. MetLife Stadium (Jets / Giants Stadium) has boxes that other banks / insurance companies use to host clients. The reason this is news is because it’s such a ridiculous stance taken by Delta. Just because you sponsor a venue doesn’t mean you own the place, which is essentially the game Delta is trying to play.

  48. Fox Theater should have just told Delta, sorry John in our scheduling department didn’t pay attention to the event sponsor, he was fixated on JLo. He also wrote sponsor name as Cat-R.

  49. @Steve – when it comes down to it the Fox and the Parade both made a choice. DL/QR/AS were participants bringing $$ to the table, the venue then decided whose money it wanted to take. Quit blaming the participants when it’s all on the venue’s shoulders…

  50. While the Fox theatre may not have been aware of Delta/ME3 disputes, I find it ludicrous that they would so blithely rent out space to ANY competitor of their presenting sponsor–middle eastern or otherwise. I challenge you to find an Emirates ad in the stadium of Barcelona FC, who keeps Qatar as their jersey sponsor. Or Coca-Cola products in a Marriott property. The Fox may not understand the nuances of the airline industry, but simple business sense could have prevented this.

  51. For those who claim that there must have been language giving Delta rights to control who rents the Theater, obviously there isn’t or their would be lawsuits. So with that obvious fact put of the way, what other sponsors are there for the theater? I am guessing a lot, a lot of them private citizens, so should the theater check with everyone any time they do anything in case it offends anyone? Or at what amount does one draw the line? From what has been reported, Qatar Airlines is renting it for a private function, that no one would have even known about if Delta had not raised a stink about it. Were they planning on putting Qatar Airlines on its marquee (thus maybe a claim of advertising for a competitor), I doubt that is the case, so if you break it down, Delta is supporting a theater, which rents out space to help keep its function going and thus maybe not have to ask Delta for more money, and the theater is taking money directly from a competitor, why is that bad?

  52. When you are sponsored by Coke Ya don’t serve Pepsi. It is that simple. The Brainiancs at the Fox should have known better. But the bigger issue is that good paying jobs in Atlanta are under attack, The gulf carriers are flagrantly in violation of the Open Sky’s agreement. This is not a simple competition issue. American carriers simply cannot compete when their governments buy them planes. Delta is one (if not the largest) employer in Ga. If something is not done this will have a big impact on our local economy.

  53. The Financial damage will be higher to Fox than to Delta.
    The PR damage will be higher to Delta than to Fox.

  54. It appears that some people don’t believe in loyalty. The subject of Qatar Airways has been the talk of Atlanta since they originally decided to come to Atlanta. The Fabulous Fox Theatre has been sponsored, to the tune of millions of dollars, by Delta Air Lines for many years. The Atlanta Symphony has received a lot of Delta’s largess. For the Fox Theatre to NOT think about putting the Qatar Airways logo on their marquee (with the Delta Air Lines logo and sponsorship plastered all over the front of the building) was a very thoughtless and now stupid thing to do. I am a native Atlantan.

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