Doug Parker calls investment “puzzling” in light of Open Skies debates.
American Airlines’ executives are reacting negatively to Qatar Airways’ move to purchase 10 percent of their company, due to their previous rift over alleged government subsidies and Open Skies. CNBC reports American chief executive Doug Parker expressed his concerns in an internally distributed letter sent to employees.
“While anyone can purchase our shares in the open market, we aren’t particularly excited about Qatar’s outreach,” Parker wrote, according to CNBC. “And we find it puzzling given our extremely public stance on the illegal subsidies that Qatar, Emirates and Etihad have all received over the years from their governments.”
On Thursday, June 22, BBC News reported the Qatari flag carrier’s intention to purchase up to $808 million in American shares, adding up to a 10 percent stake. While the carrier has not announced whether or not they will accept the unsolicited bid, the move is in line with other investments by Qatar. In 2015, the airline completed a 20 percent purchase of IAG, parent company to Aer Lingus, British Airways and Iberia.
Despite being members of the oneworld alliance, the two carriers have publicly gone back-and-forth over the Open Skies issue. In 2015, Qatar chief executive Akbar Al-Baker threatened to leave the airline alliance over the American legacy carrier’s accusations. In 2016, Parker called the Middle East carriers “The biggest threat I’ve ever seen to commercial aviation in the United States.”
Investors for Qatar Airways say that they would not involve themselves with day-to-day business at American, but see the stock as “a good investment opportunity.” Parker promised that the investment offer would not change his airline’s stance on investigating the Middle Eastern carriers’ alleged subsidies from their governments.
“We will not be discouraged or dissuaded from our full court press in Washington, D.C., to stand up to companies that are illegally subsidized by their governments,” Parker wrote, according to CNBC.
Neither the Partnership for Open and Fair Skies nor the U.S. Airlines for Open Skies, the two coalitions on either side of the Open Skies issue, have issued a public statement about Qatar’s announcement.