Two years ago, in the midst of the lobbying push by Delta, American and United to get the federal government to reduce US flying by Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar, an Emirates flight from Seattle was delayed 6 hours because Delta wouldn’t sell them a $300 part.
In fact, Emirates requested the part, Delta had it, and the part was provided and installed on the Emirates aircraft. Delta headquarters interceded and ordered the part removed.
Emirates Boeing 777
That broke with longstanding tradition that airlines provide assistance to each other during irregular operations, at an agreed upon set of prices. Delta, of course, had already broken with that tradition in demanding that American and United pay above industry-standard rates to take those carriers’ distressed passengers.
United caved. Eventually Delta, which had its own operational disruptions and was unable to accommodate their own passengers on American, came around and re-instated their agreement to take each others’ passengers when needed at customary industry rates.
When Delta refused to provide a part to Emirates, though, I suggested a new category of delay alongside standards like weather, maintenance, and crew called spite. Now, it seems, American Airlines caused a lengthy delay due to spite, not learning its lesson from dealing with Delta.
This past Saturday, Air Italy’s flight IG938 from San Francisco to Milan went mechanical. American Airlines had the part Air Italy needed, but they wouldn’t sell it. The scheduled 7:10 p.m. flight didn’t actually depart until early Monday morning,
Air Italy’s Chief Operating Officer, Rossen Dimitrov, gave an interview to an Italian publication in which he explained (Google translate),
One of our aircraft was damaged in San Francisco and could not leave without the spare part. Our ground aide asked American Airlines if they had that piece, they had it and when we asked for it they refused to send it to us and our plane was stopped for some time.
He’s suggesting, of course, that American Airlines did this for spite. The largest US carrier doesn’t want the Air Italy flying to the U.S., arguing that because they’re 49% owned by oneword member Qatar Airways, and Qatar said they didn’t have current plans to fly between Europe and the U.S. themselves even though they had a legal right to do so, that Qatar is ‘breaking their agreement’ with the U.S. but supporting the second largest Italian airline. (Qatar Airways, incidentally, owns 20% of American’s joint venture partner British Airways and 10% of proposed joint venture partner LATAM.)
American has a maintenance facility in San Francisco, and operates Airbus A330s, like Air Italy does, from the airport. Loredana De Filippo, a senior manager in corporate communications for Air Italy, confirms the incident.
An American Airlines spokesperson acknowledges that they had the part and refused to sell it to Air Italy.
American offered on the one hand that they needed the part themselves “for upcoming scheduled maintenance” but that even if they didn’t they wouldn’t have made the part available to Air Italy, because an airline has to be “an approved carrier and have a partnership with us to borrow parts, and we don’t have a partnership with Air Italy.”
In other words precisely because American is in a spat with Air Italy they won’t list the airline as an approved partner, and won’t lend parts. Let’s hope no American Airlines flight ever goes mechanical in Milan.