Recognizing that their argument for protectionism — having the US government stop consumers from buying tickets on Etihad, Emirates, and Qatar instead of more expensive tickets on Delta — went nowhere, Delta’s CEO wants to try again after the election and thinks he’ll have a better chance thanks to the direction Donald Trump has tried to move the country.
“In a future administration, candidly, this argument sells even stronger,” Bastian said in a May interview at his Atlanta office. “With the rhetoric that’s going on about trade and the U.S. having been taken advantage of, I think there is a much bigger ear there than ever before. And we’re not going to stop.”
“It’s clear that both campaigns, both Sanders’s campaign and the Trump campaign, has sparked a dialogue, a national dialogue that wasn’t happening a couple years ago,” he said.
Trump’s protectionism is what Delta is after. Except when it isn’t (they’re pushing for anti-trust immunity to pursue a joint venture with Mexican carrier Aeromexico, something that would be unlikely to fly over The Wall).
Delta has been super honest about their motivations before, such as when they said the goal of their campaign against Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar is to raise prices on consumers and limit options.
- It isn’t to end subsidies (Delta is and has been hugely subsidized).
- It isn’t to end subsidies for foreign carriers, even, Delta owns a stake in China’s most subsidized airline and partners with state-subsidized Gulf airline Saudia.
- It isn’t even to stop subsidies from Etihad, they benefit from a revenue-sharing joint venture with Alitalia which is itself subsidized by Etihad.
- It’s to raise prices and limit consumer choices, having the government redistribute income from Americans to the most profitable airlines in the world.
And while they may have lost for now, they aren’t giving up. And they’re hedging their bets. While Delta CEO Ed Bastian hopes Donald Trump will build a wall on the border with Qatar and make Akbar al-Baker pay for it, “Delta Chairman Richard Anderson…and his wife have given more than $353,000 to groups supporting Hillary Clinton, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign contributions.”