Delta CEO Richard Anderson’s unfortunate comment on CNN on the UAE and 9/11 terrorists shows the dangers of the slippery slope he has put himself on with the campaign against the major Gulf carriers.
On CNN Monday, Anderson was asked about Gulf carriers saying that US airlines get subsidies in ways such as Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Anderson responded, “It’s a great irony to have the UAE from the Arabian Peninsula talk about that, given the fact that our industry was really shocked by the terrorism of 9/11, which came from terrorists from the Arabian Peninsula.”
Not for one minute do I believe that Anderson – a very talented and gracious man who is also a former chairman of the board of governors at IATA – thinks there is a link between the major Gulf carriers or their owners with terrorists. But he should have realized that such a remark would get sharp rebuttals from the Gulf carriers, leading to Delta having to issue an apology.
He and his counterparts at American Airlines and United have embarked on an anti-Gulf carrier campaign that, thus far, has conducted its high-level Washington meetings behind closed doors. If Anderson is prepared to raise the terrorist card in public, who knows what is being said in private?
If the three major US international carriers genuinely believe they are facing unfair competition because of alleged Gulf carrier subsidies, they have public avenues at DOT and Justice where they can pursue their complaints.
If they are simply trying to keep out competition now they have what they sought – Open Skies on their terms, immunized antitrust agreements with their European partner airlines, consolidation and the luxury of restructuring under Chapter 11 protection – then let that argument be heard in public also.
But let’s not see the campaign resort to the sort of dangerous mischief that we have seen this week.
Personally, I don’t think Delta’s apology is enough. Without any foundation whatsoever, a terrible suspicion was put out there in a very public manner.
I have to agree with Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Bakar – shame on Anderson.