Qatar defends Air Italy investment

Qatar Airways has issued a statement to address what it calls “consistent inaccuracies” in accusations relating to its 49% shareholding in Air Italy.

The statement contests that all the necessary Open Skies conditions have been met, and calls recent accusations relating to its shareholding “baseless statements”.

Earlier this week, a report by Reuters said the US would be scrutinising Qatar Airways’ stake in Air Italy. While a statement from the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies (a coalition made up of American Airlines, Delta, and United) says: “There is bipartisan concern that Qatar Airways is violating last year’s agreement with the United States – making its finances more opaque instead of less and using Air Italy as a proxy to undermine the US airline industry. The future of this industry – and the jobs it supports – depend on the Trump administration holding Qatar accountable for its trade-cheating actions.”

But Qatar maintains that the claims that its investment in Air Italy violate the January 2018 US-Qatar Understandings are false.

In its statement, Qatar says: “Qatar Airways holds a 49 per cent stake in Air Italy’s parent company, AQA. This minority investment is at the same level that Delta holds in both Virgin Atlantic and AeroMexico, and that Etihad held in Alitalia…As a factual matter, the investment preceded the January 2018 US-Qatar Understandings.”

To this end, Qatar claims that the investment was announced in July 2016, and approved by the European Commission in March 2017. The transaction was then closed in September 2017, with the discussions surrounding the Understandings taking place between December 2017 and January 2018.

“Furthermore, Qatar Airways does not codeshare on any of Air Italy’s flights to the United States, and has no plans to do so. Qatar Airways is not operating any Fifth Freedom scheduled air services to the US,” the Qatar statement says. “The ‘Big 3 US carriers have consistently demonstrated their hostility to new entrants into the US-Europe market, and their attacks on Air Italy based on the identity of its minority shareholder are just another manifestation of this hostility. Air Italy, the carrier the ‘Big 3’ cite as a major ‘threat’ to their survival, has a fleet of just 15 aircraft and only serves one US city – New York – with a daily service, while other routes, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco are operated at a lower frequency.”

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