Qatar Airways operates flights to the Middle East from DFW Airport. Max Faulkner
Qatar Airways operates flights to the Middle East from DFW Airport. Max Faulkner

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American Airlines cuts marketing ties with Qatar, Etihad airlines

July 12, 2017 05:16 PM

In the wake of increased tensions with Middle East carrier Qatar Airways, American Airlines said Wednesday it’s pulling the plug on code-sharing agreements with both Qatar and Etihad Airways.

In a statement, Fort Worth-based American said it notified the Middle East carriers of its decision on June 29, basing its decision on its ongoing dispute over government subsidies it says has allowed Persian Gulf carriers to expand aggressively in the United States.

“Given the extremely strong public stance that American has taken on the issue, we have reached the conclusion that the code-sharing relationships between American and these carriers no longer make sense for us,” the company said. Under code-sharing agreement, airlines are able to jointly market international flights.

American said the decision to end the deals would have no material impact on its finances.

The move comes just weeks after American disclosed that it had received an unsolicited notice from Qatar indicating its intention to acquire up to 10 percent of American’s stock. American CEO Doug Parker called the plan “puzzling given our extremely public stance on the illegal subsidies that Qatar, Emirates and Etihad have all received over the years from their governments.”

The war of words continued this week when Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker disparaged service on U.S. airlines, saying “you are always being served by grandmothers.” That remark brought strong condemnation from leaders of American’s labor unions, which called the comment “incredibly offensive.”

For the past two years, American, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have urged the U.S. government to renegotiate Open Skies agreements with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, alleging that Qatar, Etihad and Emirates airlines have received more than $42 billion in government subsidies and loans. The U.S. carriers say the subsidies have given the Gulf carriers an unfair advantage on international routes to the Middle East, India and Africa.

The airlines and their unions have been hoping that the Trump administration would pursue the matter, given its interest in trade issues, after the Obama administration declined to intercede.

All three Gulf carriers operate flights out of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

This article includes material from Star-Telegram archives.

Steve Kaskovich: 817-390-7773, @stevekasko

The airline wants to buy a 10% stake in American Airlines