Qatar Airways CEO Calls American CEO “Frightened”

Filed Under: American, Qatar

A couple of weeks ago we learned about Qatar Airways’ interest in acquiring a stake in American. They’re looking to buy somewhere between 3.5-10% of the airline, which would represent an investment of up to a couple of billion dollars. This wouldn’t be Qatar Airways’ first time investing in a foreign carrier, as they’ve also invested in IAG, the parent company of British Airways, among other airlines.

Not surprisingly, American’s CEO, Doug Parker, sent out a letter to employees saying he wasn’t “particularly excited” about this news, and described the news for many as “puzzling, at best, and concerning, at worst.” Of course he had to say that, given the (deceptive) smear campaign that the US carriers are running against the Gulf carriers.

Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker, is easily the most prolific guy in the airline industry, and I always enjoy hearing what he has to say (mostly for the entertainment value). Al Baker had some comments today regarding Qatar’s potential investment in American, and in particular a response to Doug Parker’s words about Qatar’s interest.

Here’s what Al Baker had to say about his company’s investment in American, per Bloomberg:

“We will not impose ourselves on anybody. However, our filing is very well advanced and we hope to start buying shares on the open market soon. We want to be a strategic shareholder. We’re not telling them what to do.”

Parker’s comments on Qatar are really aimed at “placating his unions,” according to Al Baker, who said that it has become difficult for U.S. carriers to backtrack on their subsidy claims. “You have already see the statement from my dear friend Doug Parker, who is part of our alliance, who is now frightened of a Oneworld carrier wanting to take a stake,” Al Baker said.

Hah, you’ve sort of gotta love Al Baker, in a way. He calls Parker his “dear friend,” and claims that he’s “frightened.”

Al Baker was also asked about his possible plans of investing in other airlines, to which he said the following:

Asked whether he was planning further investments, possibly in Europe, Al Baker said that “a general never lays down his battle plans in advance.”

“We have been successful in surprising people and we will surprise people again very soon,” he said.

As much as I call out Al Baker all the time for being ridiculous, I think he’s absolutely right in claiming that Parker is just appeasing the unions, or at a minimum, keeping the “evil Gulf carrier” storyline going.

Let’s keep in mind that the “big three” US carriers claim that the Gulf carriers are destroying American jobs and are putting the entire US aviation industry in jeopardy, yet American continues to gladly partner with both Etihad and Qatar. If these carriers are so evil, why does American continue to do business with them? They call out Al Baker for claiming he’ll do “business with the devil” as long as it’s mutually beneficial, though American is doing just that right now.

I can’t wait to see how this all unfolds. If Qatar’s investment in American does go through, something tells me there will be a very nicely expanded partnership between the two airlines, at least in the long run…

(Credit to @AirlineFlyer for the featured image)

  1. The more telling part is DP’s inability to rally American investors to rebuff the unwanted stake purchase.

  2. Not sure I would refer to Mr Al Baker as “most prolific.” (Most fruitful? At what? Making braggadocious claims?). I’m thinking the word you’re looking for might be “preposterous.”

  3. @JoeMart : exactly how do you think they could have “rebuffed” it ? If you’re purchasing shares of a public company before the threshold that requires board approval, there’s hardly anything DP could do.

    I’m no fan of either AAB or DP, but I’m not sure how your suggestion is realistic.

  4. For someone who heads a company that has lost a good share of its market due to an embargo of his carrier by neighboring countries, AAB is mighty loose with the term “freightened”. If anyone should be frightened, it’s him.

  5. While I am in agreement that the ME3 are not taking jobs away from USA and think that they are actually beneficial for USA consumers, I cannot support Qatar (NOT pronounced cutter btw) Airways buying a stake in American. Qatar airways is owned by the government of Qatar and they support terrorists so why in the hell would we want to support terrorist? Besides, governments in general should not be able to invest in private industries

  6. @F Costanzo

    Not sure who “we” are, but the USA has a LONG history is supporting terrorists, both domestic and abroad. Just open up a history book on South America, South-West Asia, or Central Asia – to name a few. In fact, the USA still does. Not sure who you think they are in cahoots with in Syria, for a quick example off the top of my head.

  7. f costanza: “Qatar airways is owned by the government of Qatar and they support terrorists so why in the hell would we want to support terrorist? ”

    They do?

    Who, which, how?

  8. Being gay is illegal in Qatar, right? Not much interest in this story or airline. And why anyone would support investment in a US company by a company with a long history of women/gay repression, from a country with Sharia law, is beyond me..

  9. F costanza – they support terrorists and yet the USA within days turns around and sells Qatar $12B in US armaments?

  10. @F Costanzo I’ve worked and traveled quite a bit in the Middle East …. you can pronounce Qatar as “cutter” or “Kuh-tar” …. It is, in fact, pronounced both ways in Qatar, depending on who you talk to. As well as in the Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

  11. I’ve actually heard it pronounce more often as “kotter” than “cutter”, and “kuh-tar”. I’ve heard it pronounced “cutter” in the middle east, but less often than “kotter” and “kuh-tar”.

  12. It seems to have become the fashion nowadays in the comments section to have atleast one obligatory post stating that so and so country (mostly middle eastern ones) is anti gay/women/pro terror, and therefore supporting that country or its airlines is immoral/unethical/illegal/whatever. Not quite sure what these commenters hope to achieve by making such posts, but I sure do hope that they’re holding themselves to higher ethical standards than the rest of us average misguided folks….

  13. @Mr. Wise it is quite true that most countries in the Middle East have laws and customs that are mostly certainly oppressive to women and LGBT, as well as non Muslims and Jews (very specifically). Whether that means you should, or should not, fly on airlines associated with those countries is a whole different question.

    Regardless, we should ask ourselves whether we are willing to support a regime that throws women in jail for “adultery” or executes someone for being gay. It’s not a matter of being superior, in my opinion, so much as a matter of whether you live according to your principles, or not.

  14. Eric, your reply seems well thought out to me, and I definitely agree with your statement that it not about being superior. What gets me is that certain commenters seem to have a holier than thou attitude when it comes to these matters, and I guess my post is aimed at them.

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