Tuesday, July 23, 2019


The chief executive officers of the major U.S. airlines made personal appeals to President Donald J. Trump for special protections against some of the world’s best airlines during a White House meeting last week.

Delta Air Lines continues to single out Qatar Airways for its stake in and partnership with an Italian carrier. The Atlanta-based airline absurdly claims government subsidies to Qatar’s national flag-carrier is taking away American jobs.

Of course, anyone who knows anything about Delta and the other major U.S. airlines knows that is a lie. I say that as a loyal Delta customer with the top-level status in its frequent flyer program, having flown the airline over 80 times this year alone.

Delta’s hypocrisy and outright lies is beyond rich.

The major U.S. airlines — Delta, American and United — directly or indirectly through their regional partners receive significant federal subsidies. All have benefitted from federal government largesse.

It’s also common practice for those airlines to receive tax subsidies from state or local economic development authorities in exchange for servicing a particular airport that doesn’t have enough market demand to support a given route. How much? Over $71 billion since 2000, according to research from 2015.

Moreover, the monopoly enjoyed by Delta at its major hubs — Atlanta, Detroit and Minneapolis — is a prime example of crony capitalism. Nobody actually thinks the boards governing these airports don’t do whatever Delta wants. Unlike the Delta hubs, United and American compete at Chicago–O’Hare.

The monopoly in Detroit is obvious when you consider the fact that southeastern Michigan is home to one of the largest Middle Eastern communities outside the Middle East. Presumably, this would make Detroit’s airport attractive for Emirates, Qatar or Etihad. Perhaps even Turkish Airlines. Yet, none of them fly in and out of one of the best airports in the United States.

Make no mistake: Delta is, by far, the worst offender and the biggest hypocrite.

This is an airline that gave Georgia’s top state officeholders elite status in its frequent flyer program as part of its lobbying and public affairs strategy to maintain its crony capitalist relationship with the state. Delta is also the same airline that just happened to discontinue service to U.S. territories in the Pacific — to say nothing of Taiwan — at a time when communist China increases its aggression in the region and pressures American businesses to play by their rules. Coincidentally, this was around the same time Delta increased its investment and agreement with China Eastern, a communist state-owned airline.

Then there is something known as cabotage, a provision of federal law and administrative regulations that generally prohibits a foreign-flagged airline from flying between two points within the United States. Not only does this penalize travelers it adversely impacts Americans living in the U.S. Caribbean and Pacific territories.

Needless to say, the major U.S. airlines benefit immensely from a market that is hardly free nor fair. They are the last people to lecture Qatar and other Middle Eastern airlines.

The icing on the cake? Delta has said it will no longer purchase American-made aircraft from Boeing. Instead, its future plans all involve buying planes from Airbus, an aircraft maker heavily subsidized and controlled by European governments.

Meanwhile, Qatar Airways continues to buy Boeing.

• Dennis Lennox is a political commentator and public affairs consultant. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter.

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