Qatar Airways has published a strong defence of its shareholding arrangement in Air Italy. It follows scrutiny within a Senate hearing earlier in April during which Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State said he was “looking very closely” at the arrangement following allegations it violates an agreement reached between the US and Qatar Airways in 2018. In a statement issued to media on April 11, the Doha-based carrier said, “such baseless statements and consistent inaccuracies need addressing as a matter of urgency.”
Qatar Airways currently holds a 49% stake in AQA, Air Italy’s parent company. Within the lengthy rebuttal, the Middle Eastern airline framed its argument by drawing parallels with Delta’s part-ownership in Virgin Atlantic and Aeromexico, and Etihad’s shareholding in Alitalia.
“Qatar Airways’ investment in Air Italy, and operations to the United States, are fully compliant with the US-Qatar Open Skies Agreement, the January 2018 US-Qatar Understandings, and a side letter that accompanied the discussions. Unfounded claims that Qatar Airways’ investment in Air Italy violates the Understandings are entirely false,” said the company.
In 2017, the airline bought a stake in Italian carrier Meridiana, which was subsequently rebranded as Air Italy ahead of a series of direct flights from Milan to the US. Notably, Qatar Airways does not codeshare on any of Air Italy’s flights to the US, “and has no plans to do so” according to the airline.
“The ‘Big 3’ US carriers have consistently demonstrated their hostility to new entrants into the US-Europe market, and their attacks on Air Italy based on the identity of its minority shareholder are just another manifestation of this hostility,” concluded the statement.