Friday, 23 June 2017 15:02

Qatar tries to buy stake in American Airlines

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American Airlines is none too happy about Qatar Airways’ offer to buy a stake in the business, saying it was “unsolicited”.

According to Sky News, Qatar CEO Akbar Al-Baker told American CEO Doug Parker that he wants to acquire about 10 per cent of the airline’s stock, which would cost about $US2.4 billion ($AU3.2 billion).

Qatar said it plans to buy an initial stake of up to 4.75 per cent of American’s stock, before expanding to the full 10.

But Parker was not enthused with the gesture, and expressed this in a memo to staff.

“We aren’t particularly excited about Qatar’s outreach,” the CEO wrote.

“If anything, this development strengthens our resolve to ensure the US government enforces its trade agreements regarding fair competition with Gulf carriers,”

US carriers and Gulf carriers have been notoriously embroiled in a battle for years, with the Big Three US carriers – Delta, American and United – claiming the Gulf carriers of Qatar, Emirates and Etihad receive billions of dollars in unfair state subsidies from the government, which the Gulf carriers deny.

American, along with Delta and United, has pressured the US government to curb US flights by Gulf carriers, including Qatar, in the past, making this gesture from Qatar Airways rather surprising.

Qatar is in its own battle right now with neighbouring states as well as Etihad and Emirates, with Qatar travel banned in countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain. The slim piece of airspace Qatar has left has impinged on its ability to fly its usual routes, however the carrier has fought back and launched a bunch of new destinations and a cheeky border-themed ad.

According to Sky News, Al-Baker and Parker met in secret in early June at an airline-industry conference in the Mexican resort town of Cancun.

Al-Baker is also known for making bold moves like this, having also bought into other airlines, including the parent of British Airways, a close partner of American Airlines.

According to Reuters, in his letter, American CEO Parker promised to continue American’s “full court press ... to stand up to companies that are illegally subsidized by their governments.”

He also said he found Qatar Airways’ proposed investment “puzzling given our extremely public stance on the illegal subsidies that Qatar, Emirates and Etihad have all received over the years from their governments.”

Qatar Airways responded on Twitter, saying, “We are glad to see American Airlines’ CEO Doug Parker’s perspective that he agrees with Qatar Airways’ belief that American Airlines is a solid financial investment.”

Meanwhile, Qatar Airways is one of the airlines targeted by the US in the laptop ban, along with Gulf rivals Emirates and Etihad, that prevents passengers bringing their laptops and large electronic devices onboard flights, citing security risks.

| A Travel Weekly release  ||  June 23,  2017   |||