To say that I would have loved to be a fly on the wall at this meeting is a severe understatement.
President Trump’s meeting with airline CEOs
Yesterday President Trump and Vice President Pence hosted several airline CEOs at the White House, including the CEOs of American, United, JetBlue, Fedex, Atlas Air, and Qatar Airways.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian couldn’t attend due to international travel. I find that interesting — I figured he would have cleared his schedule and done everything possible to attend, given how he has been the most vocal person about what they were discussing.
Can you imagine how fabulously awkward this meeting must have been?!? I’m sure Mr. Akbar brought his boxing gloves, and was sad when he found out that Mr. Bastian couldn’t attend.
It would be one thing if Trump just met with the CEOs of US airlines, but you’re telling me Doug Parker and Akbar Al Baker were in the same room together pleading their cases?!? This should’ve been pay per view, and maybe they should have instead taken this to Judge Judy.
Interestingly Trump hasn’t Tweeted anything about the meeting (it took a while to get to his Twitter feed from yesterday, because my goodness has he been busy this morning).
Furthermore, there hasn’t been anything specific mentioned about what came of the meeting, and there’s no video that I’ve been able to find. That sort of makes me feel like this might have mostly been a photo-op.
What did Trump discuss with airline CEOs?
As is the norm, the US airlines are absolutely obsessed with the subsidies of the “big three” Gulf carriers.
Last year the US came to an Open Skies agreement with Qatar and the UAE, which ultimately amounted to very little — it made the US airlines feel like they won, while essentially maintaining the status quo.
However, the US carriers have renewed interest in this, claiming that Qatar Airways’ investment in Air Italy is violating this agreement (hint: it doesn’t).
Let’s not forget the irony of all of this. This is happening the same time that Delta is considering taking a stake in government owned and subsidized Alitalia.
What the lobbying groups are saying
The Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, representing the “big three” US carriers, had the following to say:
“We had a productive meeting with President Trump today to talk about the importance of American jobs and not letting foreign governments break their agreements with the United States. The president shares our concerns and instructed us to keep working with the U.S. Department of Transportation, which we plan to do. We thank the president for his time and attention, as well as his concern for the 1.2 million Americans who rely on a strong U.S. airline industry.”
Meanwhile the US Travel Association, representing the opposing side, had the following to say:
“We have closely scrutinized Open Skies agreements and we simply do not agree that they are doing any harm to American businesses — on the contrary, our research shows immense benefits to the U.S. economy, jobs base and exports, and considerable harm if Open Skies is tampered with. Apart from the Big Three, the entirety of the U.S. travel and tourism industry—including the rest of the aviation sector — strongly supports keeping Open Skies intact.”
I’ll be curious to see if anything comes of these meetings. Frankly airline executives on both sides have been very complementary of Trump — the “big three” US carriers have thanked Trump for protecting American jobs, while Al Baker has called Trump his friend.