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US carriers air grievances towards Qatar Airways through full-page newspaper ads

Private US airlines say they cannot compete with government-subsidised carrier
Washington is scrutinising state-owned Qatar Airways’ acquisition of 49 percent of Air Italy

A coalition of US commercial airlines has purchased full-page ads in the New York Times and New York Post this week to complain about Qatar Airways.

The ads, directed at President Donald Trump, said Qatar Airways had violated a 2018 agreement with the United States by aggressively building flight routes through Air Italy. The Qatari airline recently bought a 49 percent stake in the company.

“Air Italy was a struggling regional carrier until Qatar Airways injected tens of millions of dollars into the company to circumvent the agreement and expand its US presence. In the last few days, 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 US airlines,” the ad read.

The letter went to say that private US carriers cannot compete with a government-subsidised airline.

Since 2015, the largest US carriers - Delta Air Lines, American Airlines Group and United Airlines - have argued their Gulf rivals are being unfairly subsidised by their governments, distorting competition.

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“No rule-abiding business can compete with a massively subsidised airline that ignores economic realities and can wipe away losses with one infusion of government cash after another,” the ad said.

Washington is scrutinising state-owned Qatar Airways’ acquisition of 49 percent of Air Italy, which has been flying to US destinations since June, a deal that US lawmakers say may have violated a commitment by the Gulf airline not to add new flights to the domestic market.

Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a Senate hearing: "We're looking very closely at this recent decision by Qatar to take on 49 percent of this airline."

Both Republicans and Democrats at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing said they were concerned that the deal with the Italian carrier violated an agreement Qatar Airways reached with the United States in early 2018.

"There are lots of consultations taking place," Pompeo said. In January, US and Qatari officials met to discuss civil aviation matters, the State Department said earlier this year.

In a letter to Pompeo and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao on Wednesday, JetBlue Airways and cargo carriers FedEx and Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings said restricting the rights of Qatar Airways and Air Italy could lead to retaliation against US carriers.