Qatar’s Air Italy Investment Is Being Investigated By The US

Qatar Airlines has recently come under fire in the US over their investment in Air Italy. Certain parties within the United States believe that Qatar Airways is using Air Italy to circumvent a US-Qatar open skies agreement.

Qatar Open Skies
Qatar Airways is accused of breaking its open skies agreement with the US. Photo: Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways insists that they are compliant with the open skies agreement regarding their Air Italy investment. In fact, they go as far as to say that “the baseless statements and consistent inaccuracies need addressing as a matter of urgency”. The news comes after hostility from American Airlines has led to Qatar repeatedly threatening to leave the Oneworld alliance.

The accusations

The U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, is investigating the open skies agreement. Specifically, he’s looking at Qatar Airways’ investment in the Italian airline. The claim is that through Air Italy flying to America, Qatar Airways is disregarding an agreement not to launch new flights to the US market.

Qatar Open Skies
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is investigating the airline. Photo: Qatar Airways

Members from both the Democrat and Republican parties are worried that the stake in Air Italy defies the open skies agreement made between the two states in 2018. This is something which Qatar Airways claims is not true.

Qatar response

Qatar Airways issued an urgent press release in response to the allegations. In it, they claim that the investment in Air Italy was common knowledge while the open skies agreement was being drawn up. In fact, the investment in the Italian airline was announced in July 2016 and closed in September 2017. Qatar Airways says that talks regarding the open skies agreement took place between December 2017 and January 2018.

The airline states “Qatar Airways’ investment in Air Italy was a matter of public knowledge” before going on to add “The Understandings do not mention or prohibit cross-border investments of any type”. They then highlight that they do not operate codeshare flights with the Italian Airline, and have no plans to do so.

Air Italy’s operations

Air Italy currently offers very little competition to US carriers. Indeed, the Italian airline only operates one daily service to the United States, a Milan to JFK service. Competition on this route comes from American Airlines, Delta, Alitalia and Emirates. Three other routes are operated by Air Italy to the United States less frequently. These are Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

It seems as though Air Italy is hardly a threat to the United States aviation market. Indeed, the accusations that the company has breached the open skies agreement, along with Qatar’s allegations about American Airlines seems to show this could be more of a tit for tat argument, with Air Italy being used as a scapegoat.

Do you think Qatar is breaching their open skies agreement? Let us know in the comments down below!