Last week the CEOs of Delta, American and United took out a full page ad letter to President Trump asking for the US government to stop Air Italy from flying to the United States.
- Air Italy has a fleet of 15 planes — 10 narrowbodies and 5 Airbus A330s. They are the second largest carrier in Italy behind Delta partner Alitalia (which Delta has considered investing in). They are 49% owned by Qatar Airways.
- They can legally fly between Europe and the United States and are doing so. Qatar Airways itself could legally do so, but agreed last year that it had ‘no current plans’ to.
- Qatar’s plans for Air Italy were clear and public when they made that agreement.
Ed Bastian, Doug Parker, and Oscar Munoz began by flattering the President about the ‘principles his administration was built on’ and then declared “America’s airline workers are counting on you.”
They declare this tiny carrier “a grave threat to American jobs and the health of the airline industry.” Although what does that say about these airlines if they’re so precarious, about how they’re being managed?
The reason for this threat is that “Qatar Airways has used its Italian proxy to launch routes to Los Angeles and San Francisco, and added flights to Miami – a further effort to undermine U.S. airlines.”
No US airline flies San Francisco – Milan or Los Angeles – Milan. Air Italy is offering something to consumers that US airlines choose not to. However despite claims by the big US carriers to the contrary, Air Italy isn’t immune from basic forces of supply and demand due to subsidies.
And indeed the existential threat now seems to be gone: Air Italy’s Los Angeles and San Francisco – Milan flights are being downgraded to seasonal (so is their Toronto service). They already dropped Chicago service before it began.
At some level if a US airline cannot compete against an Italian one, a ‘government-controlled’ one no less, they probably shouldn’t be in business. And shouldn’t they worry about how about half of their passengers feel when they’re flattering the President as election season heats up?