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!

  1. Qatar has a minority stake (49%) in Air Italy…so a Qatar flight is not the same thing as an Air Italy flight. Just as a new British Airways route is not a Qatar route (Qatar has a minority stake in IAG). Instead of improving their product, US carriers prefer to put themselves in a victim role. Incidentally, Qatar’s counterargument to alleged state funding of Qatar Airways is brilliant: Chapter 11 protection (of which all of the big three US carriers have made use in the past) is effectively a form of subsidy. This bitching back-and-forth won’t be over any time soon…

  2. I think it is right about time that the world tells the United States to shove it. Instead of investing in a product and service that people will want to use they choose as one commenter says is to be the victim. Just because a country has different labour rights like lets say no unions thus dare I say it leading to lower wage costs among one thing. Lets just say that the said country offers affordable landing charges and airport services for the simple belief that they value the airline industry and see it as a huge way to diversify the economy. Just because the country has no corporate taxes and personal income taxes and such or at the every least very low. It does not mean that the western governments should be dictating the terms and what the said countrys should be doing. They should be waking up and figuring out what is wrong with our country in the form or unions, taxes aviation policies and so on. Maybe if the airlines complaining had a good product more people would use it. As a consumer I should be free to choose save money have a longer flight and a connection or pay more fly direct. Pretty simple consumer choice in my mind. If we stifle competition and disallow it then whose subsidizing who. This is the real question that closed minded governments should be asking!

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