Delta’s CEO on the Middle East “Cheaters” (Across the Aisle)

Across the Aisle Interviews, Delta

Welcome back to the third, final, and probably most controversial installment in my Across the Aisle interview with Delta CEO Ed Bastian. If you missed part one about Los Angeles and the Pacific, find it here. And if you missed part two about getting cocky, arriving on time, and viral videos, that one is right here.

I hadn’t even planned on asking about the Middle East carriers, because that wouldn’t have been near the top of my list with so much else to discuss. But when our time was up and Ed wanted to keep the party rolling so we could talk about the Middle East situation, I wasn’t going to turn it down. The airline has really ramped up the Middle East carrier rhetoric lately, so I think we can all get ready to hear a lot more about this.

I’ve long believed that there’s a lot of noise in this battle, and that this really wasn’t about the Gulf hubs at all. It always seemed to me to be about future growth in fifth freedom flights that, without government intervention, will eventually allow Middle East airlines to connect the US with East Asia and Europe. (There are already a couple of questionable European routes flying.) I made sure to bring that up in the discussion, and Ed’s comments cemented by belief.

Many people have brought up the hyprocrisy in calling out subsidies when other airlines receive them as well. I don’t buy some of those arguments, like, as mentioned in the interview, the Chapter 11 comparison, but there are others that seem more cloudy. That’s why I brought up China. My understanding is that some Chinese airlines are running an increasing number of loss-making flights with cheap seats over the Pacific thanks to local subsidies. As you see below, Ed has an alternative view.

Brett Snyder, Cranky Flier: We’ve seen Emirates making some big cutbacks lately in the US, but as an overall strategy you still see these guys growing. Qatar just announced San Francisco. There’s more coming. Obviously Delta and others have been very vocal about the subsidization issue of Middle Eastern carriers. Where is that today, this fight, because it’s been going on for some time?

Ed Bastion, CEO, Delta Air Lines: Well, we are working with a new administration. We spent a lot of time with the previous administration. We thought we had made our case to them, and I think they weren’t quite sure how to deal with the remedy.

Cranky: They believed in the case. They just didn’t know what to do with it?

Ed: I think that’s indeed the case. And I think they were trying to work the issue, and they ran out of time. This president ran on a platform of enforcing US trade agreements, fair trade as compared to free trade, and protecting American jobs and American interests. Given the size of the subsidies which we’ve had audited, we’ve had lawyers involved, forensic accounting involved, no-one has been able to give any evidence that they’re not subsidized. Fifty billion dollars is our expectation and we think it’s grown since then, because that was a couple years ago. So our government needs to decide what they’re going to do about it.

The issue for me, Brett, is a very important issue because the US airlines are profitable, some of the most profitable airlines around the globe. It’s not going to cause us to go spiraling out of business any time soon, but it will over time. And over time it’ll be too late if we don’t do something about it now. And when you think about those three airlines combined have about 450 planes, widebodies. They have destroyed a large part of the European economics that the traditional carriers; Air France, KLM, Lufthansa… certainly other things that fit back to their businesses too. But that’s really hurt their traffic pulls Europe to Asia, Europe to Africa, Europe to the Middle East. Those profits are way off, and they’ve lost those and now they’re barely making money. They’re not growing anymore in those markets. Big social unrest as a result of that. They can’t pay their people. You go to Asia and you look at the issues that Singapore’s having. Look at the issues Cathay Pacific is having. A number of factors going on there, but the Middle Eastern carriers have had a significant impact in those markets.

Cranky: It’s funny, because Singapore, the same charges were levied at them back when they started.

Ed: Exactly. Well, the Middle Eastern carriers stole the business model from the Singaporeans. And then Australia where Qantas has now turned into largely a feeder airline for Emirates on an international scope. Of course they fly Australia to China and they do some local Asian flying, but the flights to Europe, the Kangaroo flights, that’s all been ceded to the Middle Eastern guys. Emirates is far larger, substantially larger than Qantas is. We don’t have to look too far. You know what’s gonna happen when you add another 500 aircraft, 540 to be specific, widebodies on order, firm orders, that are being built as we speak to be delivered over the next 5 to 8 years? Where are they gonna go? Are they gonna go to China? I don’t think the Chinese are going to let them in. Are they gonna go to Japan? I don’t think so. The Japanese aren’t going to let them in. The only other market that can sustain that level of volume is the US and they’re waving ’em in.

They want to bring them over the Transatlantic undoubtedly. They want bring them through, establish Transatlantic markets they continue to poke at. They eventually want to bring them in over the Pacific, there’s no question in my mind of that. And it’s for to us to decide, ’cause if that is indeed is going to be what happens, then the US industry is going to be substantially smaller in 10 years from today than it is. And I think that’s a terrible thing for our international airlines, a terrible thing for our employees, a terrible thing for our customers, our communities and you know, they’re cheaters. They’re trade violators and they’re cheaters. And we need to hold them accountable.

It’s easy when somebody pays billions of dollars to make issues go away… we’re here in Los Angeles, Emirates is the airline of the Dodgers. They’re all over Dodger Stadium. How can that be? They’ve got one flight a day, LA to Dubai. Can that sustain a sponsorship which I know is very expensive? That sponsorship costs many millions of dollars a year. Based on one flight, which they just cut back from two. How could that be? Or how could they be the sponsors of the US Open in New York, the tennis tournament, on two flights a day they got. These things have created outsize impacts not just in international aviation but the cost of sponsorships, the cost of service, and we need to do something about it. If it’s proven that they are not subsidized, fine. We’ll compete with anybody. But we can’t compete with a government that’s nation-building. That’s what they’re doing. In terms of wanting to turn their economy as they’re doing and have done into a center of global trade and commerce. That’s not right, it’s not fair, and we’re not going to stand for it.

Cranky: So, the fifth freedom is the big concern, right? The ability to flow something through Europe or through Asia here? Because what they have now, I guess in theory they could add more cities to their Middle Eastern homes, but that’s probably more of a drop in the bucket, right?

Ed: We already know they’re subsidized and losing an enormous amount of money, so at this point they can add as many as they want and it doesn’t really matter. But I’m much more sensitive to what they do on routes that people actually want to fly on. To Europe versus Doha.

Cranky: Routes people want to fly on? So [Newark to] Athens doesn’t bother you then? *laughing*

Ed: No, exactly, to Europe. Rather than route over Doha, you’d rather go direct to Athens and that’s a cause for concern.

Cranky: No I know; I was kidding because that’s a pretty thin route for that airplane anyway.

Ed: I understand they have like 60 people on that flight.

Cranky: Oh that’s pretty good.

Ed: I’m not sure how many people paid.

Cranky: In the winter it’s going to be rough.

Ed: I heard there were maybe 2 people in business class and I’m sure they were both comped. So anyway, when you see that stuff,and you know it’s wrong, and you know it’s subsidized. And by the way, we’re together with American, we’re together with United, we’re together with our unions. Everyone who competes against these people have the same reaction. You hear the noise from the people that don’t compete and get paid off by these guys. You know, they’re biased. They get paid by them, so I don’t think their arguments carry much credibility. Our government needs to respond to that, and I think they will.

[Corp comm chimes in to say we’re just about out of time, this time for real]

Ed: He wants to cut you off because I could go on for another 30 minutes.

Cranky: I’m sure. Let’s get some drinks in here. But I will ask one more question. You hear people that compare it to bankruptcy as a subsidy in the US which I don’t buy into anyway.

Ed: That’s BS.

Cranky: And I agree on that, but what about the people who say “looks what’s happening in China”? They’re throwing money in China at routes that are in no way sustainable to the US.

Ed: There are subsidies in China. By the way, they call them out. They put them on their financial statements to do it. Have you seen the Chinese financial statements?

Cranky: No

Ed: You need to get a look at the Chinese financial statements. There’s a line item called subsidies.

Cranky: Well at least they’re clear, but that’s still a subsidy.

Ed: Well ok, but first of all, they’re transparent about it so you can draw your conclusion about it. I’ve asked because we have partners over there, and the majority of those subsidies are geared toward domestic service. The Chinese would not be flying between a lot of these secondary markets within China. We’re not competing against that market, and that’s China policy within its own nation. We have no issue with that. There’s minimal subsidies of international service by the Chinese carriers. The bulk of that is domestic which by the way we have in our country too; it’s called [Essential Air Service]. It’s small and it’s going away. It’s not relevant. For people to compare that, which are in the Chinese, I think it’s in the tens of millions of dollars, not the billions to the $50 billion number I talked about, it’s laughable.

And that was a wrap. I appreciate the way Ed answered the questions put to him, even if I might not agree with everything he said. I have no doubt this particular post is going to generate a lot of heat in the comments, so have at it.

If you missed part one about Los Angeles and the Pacific, find it here. And if you missed part two about getting cocky, arriving on time, and viral videos, that one is right here.

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56 comments on “Delta’s CEO on the Middle East “Cheaters” (Across the Aisle)

  1. This is by far the best write-ups on the ME3 issue and it is so good because it captures the emotion of the conversation that a government filing cannot do.
    “that’s BS” is precisely right and it is the hypocrisy that the ME3 throw out and too many people repeat because they don’t understand that reorganization under BK laws involves exchanging debt for equity in the new company and it involves private creditors, not the government.
    The emotion is reinforced in the reality which Ed notes that the ME3 have decimated European longhaul aviation. The only part that is missing is that the Europeans were gullible enough to believe the ME3’s argument that buying a bunch of oversized aircraft – the A380 – that the market didn’t want and was a symbol of European arrogance to have built the world’s largest aircraft – was justification for destroying their airlines.
    Now that very high quality airlines like SQ, CX and a whole lot of smaller airlines are being affected, the ME3 is desperately looking for a place to grow as their Middle East hub model fails them. (Emirates profits were just released and they are down 70%)
    The issue is that the previous administration ran out of time and the current administration has to understand what is going on globally and that the US is the only viable growth market the ME3 have to grow which is why Open Skies has to be ripped up and with it 5th freedom rights such as Europe and Asia to the US.
    The argument that far too many make about the ME3’s great service completely misses the point that when you are subsidized it isn’t a surprise that you can offer a superior product. Consumers don’t make choices based on national priorities of protecting jobs; the government has to make those decisions.

    Outstanding discussion and one that will go on…until the Trump administration acts and I believe they will.

    1. “they don’t understand that reorganization under BK laws involves exchanging debt for equity in the new company and it involves private creditors, not the government”

      The airlines, specifically American, dumped billions of dollars of pension liabilities on the government/tax payers through the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (a U.S. Government agency). To claim they didn’t makes the ME carriers look honest.

      It would be great if all sides would open their books and be honest about current funding (aircraft, pensions, airports, fuel, labor, etc) so we can have an honest debate about fifth freedom rights and asking airlines to contribute more/less based on any “unfair” cost advantage they may have that distorts market competition.

          1. remember that employees received stock in the reorganized companies as part of the settlement for the pension losses.
            Given that the market cap for all 3 of American, Delta and United is far more than it was on exit from bankruptcy, employees would have covered their pension losses if they held the stock – but nearly all employee stock was sold very quickly.

            1. The stock that employees received after chapter 11was tiny when you compare it to the lost pension and wages. It wasn’t tiny it was minuscule. Add to that it HAD to go in our 401k so there was no way we can “sell” in order to reap the rewards.

        1. So American Airlines is still paying all the pensions they owe and they didn’t dump the responsibility on the employees and the insurance on the government?

          I think you just confirmed it’s a subsidy.

          1. AA and DL FROZE the majority of their defined benefit pension plans which means that benefits stopped accruing at the time of the freeze but the responsibility for funding the plan remains with the airline. The premerger Delta pilot plan was terminated and turned over to the PBGC because it contained a lump sum distribution provision which was draining the fund and that was the only pension plan from AA, DL or NW that was terminated.

            It is not a subsidy if the airline continues to hold responsibility for funding the plans which amounts to tens of billions of dollars. DL has the highest pension responsibility because pre-merger US’ plans were terminated because like UA, US filed before the pension protection act was finalized.

            Again, employees and/or their unions received stock in the reorganized companies and all of the carriers that terminated or froze plans all offer some form of defined contribution plan except for a few workgroups with non-airline, union-sponsored DB plans.

            I’m not sure how you could define that as a subsidy.

          2. Southeastern – So insurance is a subsidy? The companies in the US that have pensions pay into the PBGC just like you pay premiums on your home or car insurance. Then if they can’t sustain the pensions (or if you have an accident in your car or your house is broken into), the insurance pays the bills. That’s not a subsidy.

  2. This is the best article on the ME3 issue because it captures the emotion of the issue as only an interview can do. “BS” is accurate about bankruptcy because it highlights the hypocrisy of the ME3 in trying to accuse somebody else of wrong-doing to justify their actions and ignorance of those who don’t understand that the process of chapter 11 organization involves swapping debt for equity among private shareholders, not the government.
    The only thing missing in the response about the decimation of the Europeans is their mistake allowing the ME3 to decimate European airlines in exchange for buying an airplane that the market otherwise did not want (the A380) and which had its genesis solely from European arrogance to produce the world’s largest airplane as justification for destroying the European airline industry.

    Of course the ME3 can offer great service because they are subsidized. Consumers won’t make a decision based on national interests; government has to do that.

    I think it is far that the Obama administration ran out of time on a number of aviation issues and the Trump administration will act because the US is the only large western country that hasn’t reigned in the ME3 who will continue to eye the profits from the US’ markets.

    When high quality airlines like SQ and CX as well as many others struggle and airlines like QF only exist on formerly strong routes because they have made partnerships with the ME3, it is clear that the market is grossly skewed and the Trump administration has to act.

    Outstanding article. I am sure you will be writing more about the issue.

    1. forgive the duplicate post… I’m betting I am not the first one that, at times but not always, waits for the post to appear or get an error message non the captcha code only to think nothing posted.

  3. “No-one can give any evidence that they’re not subsidized” is an incredibly silly argument to use. The onus isn’t on the ME3 to prove themselves innocent, it’d be on Delta or US carriers to prove that they’re guilty. Using that logic one could easily say that nobody has given any evidence that Delta’s management doesn’t ritualistically sacrifice a live puppy every quarter to improve their A0 numbers and it’d be just a true. Either way it was a softball interview.

    1. Agreed that asking for proof of a negative is not a way to win an argument. However, it’s not as though there isn’t a fair amount of evidence (perhaps a preponderance?) already out there in support of the proposition of the ME3 being heavily subsidized. Given the extreme difficulties that any entity outside of the ME3 would have in obtaining reliable documentary evidence on the issue, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to require an airline to prove it isn’t subsidized as a condition precedent to permitting the airline to fly 5th freedom routes to/from a country whose industries stand to be harmed by those flights. Of course, the native carriers seeking this protection should similarly be required to show that they are not subsidized as well.

    2. My sentiments exactly. Thanks for the puppy sacrifice analogy, it summarizes how many people feel about the US3. If they would stop whining about the ME3 and work on having a decent product, this wouldn’t be an issue.

  4. And as another follow up, if the Chinese airlines only get subsidies for their domestic operations, then maybe if the ME3 are subsidized, they only get the subsides for all of their routes not involving the US.

    It’s just incredibly hypocritical to say that you’re ok with an airline you’ve invested a ton of money in being subsidized because it’s “only for domestic operations” (I’m sure none of that money helps their balance sheet elsewhere). And then go on to argue that subsides are bad and distort competition.

    1. The “subsidies” for US carriers, as Mr. Bastian pointed out, are “Essential Air Service” subsidies in which small towns raise money to bring air carrier service to their municipalities. In many cases the air carriers still lose money with the “subsidies” and discontinue their service after an agreed-upon time. Do you think any of the ME3 want to fly Paducah, KY to ORD, or Alpena, MI to DTW, or Garden City, KS to DFW? No. They want to scrape all the cream off the top.
      The labor costs for these carriers must also be minimal, to say the least, where North Korean and Bangladeshi laborers have their passports confiscated and are paid 12 cents per hr to build hotels with $2,500 per night rooms.

      1. I was referring to Delta being completely ok with the fact that China Eastern (who DL bought a $450 million stake in a few years ago) having $865 million of documented state given subsides “for domestic operations” in 2015 alone (this is more than their yearly profit by the way). But somehow they’re massively against other carriers receiving a subsidy….possibly.

  5. I argued here once before the next stage in the growth of the ME3 will be secondary european city to North America, i.e. Dubai-Manchester-Chicago, or Doha-Stuttgart-Miami. Connecting growth rates via the Middle Eastern gateways is not sustainable, so the alternative must be the afore-mentioned type of routing. Admittedly this was based on talking to London based airline analysts.

    This will inevitably draw away connecting traffic away from the UK/European carriers main hubs as well as their US partners.

    Going East will be far harder, China, Japan and Korea are far more protectionist than their western counterparts.
    Nicc

  6. I appreciate Ed’s candor as well as these in depth interviews. Much better than most of the aviation fluff pieces in MSM that do little more than echo the airline’s PR bullet points.

  7. It may shock Ed, but most of his customers would stampede over him to enjoy the quality of service offered by any non-American airline at near-equivalent prices. Think: young flight attendants that smile, food with more than a single shard of lettuce, space for knees, it goes on. Let the subsidies continue!!

    1. Would you like to lose your job because your employer cannot compete against a state sponsored entity? I would love to pay below market prices too, but not at the expense of fair competition.

  8. Well you should take Larry king’s old TV show because this was a bag full of “softballs” you threw. While I will not argue that there are a lot of “state” owned parts and pieces which benefit the ME3 the assessment or argument that Bankruptcy and special tax deals are not subsidies is pure CRAP. Remember they don’t have the tax code we have. Delta buys more AirBuses than US metal as does United and AA.
    The US carriers are profitable, and I am sure you just love to fly in those cramped smelly coach seats eating those wonderful food options.

    I have not flown US metal international in 12 years, last time I flew DL the entertainment system did not work, several seats in Biz were duck taped with the FA’s continuing to apologize, and oh same thing on return flight!

    Nope, I don’t buy DL’s argument.

    1. you do know what happened on Sept 11, 2001?

      All of the US airlines have invested enormous amount of money in their products and terminals and increased pay for their people and they have done with their hard-earned profits, not government subsidies.

      Tell us what flight attendants for the ME3 make compared to US flight attendants at the same time you tell us how many other airlines in the world chose to fit even their coach toilets with wood toilet seats. Show us the rent payments for terminals at DXB, DOH, and AUH.

      1. When you consider the absence of taxes, housing and other benefits the ME3 staff receive, they get paid pretty well. They also get longer rest periods and nicer hotels.

          1. Absence of personal income tax only equals another subsidy if the Government of the relevant ME country is running a budget deficit (and thus using borrowing from tomorrow to subsidise its citizens of today). So your argument only holds if the US doesn’t run a budget deficit…

            1. Uh, income that should be taxed that isn’t taxed is another form of subsidy from the government that isn’t taxing it.

              Has the effect of making the wages seem higher to the employee which is clearly a subsidy to the employer as it allows them to pay lower wages.

  9. It’s easy to miss amid all the other topics, but it’s interesting to see that how confident he is that the EAS program is going away. Republicans have talked about cutting it for years but so many of their districts rely on it for air service.

  10. I love the passion Ed has about the ME3 carriers. Great point on what they have done to European carriers. My hunch is they [Europe] wanted to play nice for the benefit of their “once upon a time” state sponsored Airbus. I don’t disagree with the argument the US airlines are making and I definitely don’t think there is that much difference between the back of the bus on an Emirates A380 vs. a DL 777. I do think many people’s general state of discontent towards US based airlines clouds their opinion of the situation. In a true free market all sides being equal I’d love to see a head to head between DL and EK. May the best airline win.

    1. I have done both in coach since the first of the year on longhaul segments and I did LH in coach a couple of times. To be honest, the biggest difference was the sophistication of the EK AVOD system – better than either DL or LH – and the smaller amount of meat in the main course on either LH or EK. The DL seats on multiple aircraft other than the 744 are as comfortable as EK’s (the A380 is a nice ride) while the LH 744 like any 17″ inch seat is tight. FAs on all of them were pleasant, gave me whatever I wanted that was within what was served for that cabin, and were very visible in the cabin. Obviously the DL and LH FAs were older than EK’s but the service was no better just because of age. The EK crew was clearly composed of multiple nationalities while DL’s was all Americans but included Asian-Americans and multiple ethnicities while LH’s was German with less ethnic diversity

  11. I was wondering if Delta was going to soften their stance against the ME3 with Richard Anderson’s departure. Now, we know that answer.

    However, I do agree with Ed in many ways. I think you are seeing way too much capacity to Doha, Dubai, and Abu Dabi. Plus with route additions like EWR- ATH, you have to wonder about how good are they are finding profitable routes with all their huge planes.

  12. Boo fricken hoo. The US majors have degraded their product by nickle and diming us to death, and now they want sympathy? I would love to see cabotage put in place so I could fly SFO to ATL on EK so I could flip Bastian the bird.

  13. Many carriers are subsidized in some way. But a $500K subsidy to fly to a small market, or even the $400+ Million that MU got to fly some inter China flights is a drop in the bucket compared to the billions the ME3 got.

    If my folks give me $5K for a down payment on a new car, but they buy my sister a new $500K house, do I not have a right to complain about the fairness? We both got money, but the scale is no where near the same.

    1. Exactly. It’s not a “gotcha, they have subsidies too” game. Typical either/or, black/white nonsense that infects our political process.

      It’s a question of degree and your example illustrated that perfectly.

  14. Based on my understanding of what I’ve read on the subject, China’s domestic air subsidies make a certain amount of sense. China’s transportation infrastructure (roads, railroads, etc. is limited at best. In some ways, China isn’t unlike Alaska. It’s often less expensive to build airports and fly to many areas of China that it would be to build roads or rail lines into those areas.

  15. Great write-up Brett.

    Ed can cry all the way to the bank (how about the export-import bank to be exact). Just like the EAS program, the Ex-Im Bank is a major reason why these arguments of the US3 won’t go anywhere; politicians won’t go near this stuff. Boeing is a job-creator and a huge beneficiary of the bank, which in turn allows it to score these big deals with the ME3 worth billions.

    Ed needs to count his blessings that geographically, the US3 are somewhat insulated for the effects of the ME3 other than the 5th freedom flights. Speaking of which, UA and NW (now DL) have enjoyed 5th freedom rights out of Narita since granted following WII. You can’t have it both ways.

    1. first, Delta’s 5th freedom rights in Japan are becoming worth less and less because of the opening of Haneda to longhaul international flights so I’m not sure that argument works that well. and Japanese carriers do have 5th freedom rights beyond the US – JAL used to fly NRT-JFK-GRU but they dropped it even though the rights still remain.
      And the ME3 doesn’t need Exim in order to buy aircraft. If the topic was airlines in most African countries, then few people would be criticizing Exim but the ME3 don’t need Exim. Just like access to Europe, the ME3 took everything that was allowed and are stopping only because some countries like Germany won’t let them add anymore cities. The ME3 will stop their expansion in the US including the US to Europe and any other 5th freedom rights when those rights are taken away or are changed such that, for example, EK can’t really serve JFK or EWR but they can fly to Harrisburg or Albany

    2. The US carriers (initially Northwest and Pan Am) were given 5th freedom rights at Tokyo in a time where aircraft had nowhere near the range they have now.

      And UA and DL are winding down their 5th freedoms. UA will have zero 5th freedoms at NRT by the end of October and DL will end theirs once the JV with Korean is done. UA has only one remaining 5th freedom, HKG-SIN and they’ll drop that if/when they can get a code share partner to connect the two.

      Neither of the EK 5th freedoms are needed for range issues, EK flies multiple daily non stop from DXB to NYC.

      1. If American airlines could make money ex-Tokyo, I’d bet those routes will still be flying. The fact is, no one in Asia truly wants to fly on an American airline. The service standards are abysmally poor compared to the competition. American airlines are shutting down 5th freedom routes ex-Tokyo simply because they can not compete, even with all the advantages they had in the past.

        Back in the good old days, aircraft range did determine route negotiations. It certainly played a role in discussing the freedoms of the sky.

        But the freedoms of the sky were born out of a certain kind of politics. America was the strongest economy in the world, and its airlines were all around the world, connecting destinations where the “home” airline could not compete in a meaningful way (American airlines were rich compared to other airlines). Just because the aircraft had limited range back in the day, did not require that American airlines could have a hub and fly their metal around South East Asia.

        Going by the current American push back on Emirates operating flights from Europe to USA, Japan could have equally demanded that only Japanese airlines would fly ex-Tokyo to around South East Asia – with a JV or code-share, as being done by American airlines now. But, DL (NWA?) had a huge hub in Tokyo at the expense of Japanese airlines.

        The tide of time waits for no one.

        1. NW and then DL competed just fine at NRT until the liberalization of HND occurred to allow long haul international routes to fly from there (almost exclusively on ANA and JAL).

          After all, NW/DL was there for over 50 years. I doubt they would have stayed so long if they truly “couldn’t compete.”

        2. But most of DL and UA’s 5th freedom rights were not really about local traffic. Some of the beach flights sure, but they were still served out of the much less desirable NRT.

          DL has the NRT-MNL/SIN flights mostly to serve US travelers to those destinations that until very recently, weren’t really practical/possible to serve non-stop from the US mainland.

          The ME3 isn’t looking at serving passengers to/from UAE/Qatar, they’re connecting everyone, and their 5th Freedom routes out of Europe to the US are looking at O/D customers.

          1. According to DOT data, Delta’s flights from NRT to business cities of Asia (not the beach market flights) carried 25% or more local Japan to Asia traffic ON TOP OF the connecting passengers that originated in the US (or vice versa). No hub works solely if all passengers are connecting thru the hub and that is not the way the NRT hub worked. Opening HND to local traffic siphons off the best revenue to another airport; DL had no choice but to compete for HND flights or its US-Japan franchise would weaken even if shifting flights to HND weakens the NRT hub.

            and the ME3, specifically EK, is indeed targeting LOCAL market Europe to US traffic. They don’t stop in MXP and ATH just for fuel but so that they can compete directly in the US-Europe market alongside the US3 on markets they serve.
            It is also noteworthy that EK is reducing its DXB-JFK flights but are not dropping their JFK-MXP-DXB flight. If they really were carrying enough JFK-DXB traffic on their JFK-MXP-DXB flight, they would drop that flight before they dropped a nonstop. They are keeping their flights w/ stops in Europe because the US-Europe segment of the flight is more profitable than the nonstop flights from the US to the UAE

  16. Emirates has been sponsoring tennis tournaments around the world for years. Its sponsorship of the US Open has nothing to do with flights in NYC. Emirates sponsors tennis tournaments in many places where it would never fly.

  17. Ed Bastian articulates this issue far more eloquently than all the other CEOs combined (Parker, Munoz, and earlier Smisek and Anderson). Indeed Richard Anderson did the cause no good with his jibes, especially getting into that spat with Mr Al Baker.

    Had Ed been at the helm two years ago when the US3 released their documents and started their campaign it would have got a more positive reception.

  18. I totally agree that blatant subsidies are a bad thing in the long run and distort the market.

    A non trade barrier that benefits the US carriers is the Federal Aviation Act that prohibits foreigners from owning more than 25 percent of an airline! No wonder the domestic carriers are so poor on their service offering. Perhaps some competition would be a good idea.

    In Australia you can have a 100% foreign owned domestic carrier. Hence you saw the likes of Virgin, Tiger etc bring the fight to Qantas. The USA, the land of competition should open up this sector for the good of everyone. Imagine if Ryanair were allowed to open a US subsidiary…

  19. So, is Ed saying that Delta does not get any tax breaks from the federal and/or state governments? Because that is a form of subsidies.

    1. No. No he’s not. He’s saying that if the ME3 airlines get $1 million in subsidies for every $100 in subsidies that go to US airlines get, trade fairness is probably a discussion worth having.

      Numbers are just to show scale, I don’t know the claimed ratios but I’m sure Ed does (and maybe cranky does too).

  20. I’m getting so tired of DL, AA and UA who basically carved up the US markets between them complaining because the goal posts changed. I can’t see how muzzling these ME3 will help improve customer service from the US3.

    European carriers are competing with this just like American ones without bleating. And they have fiercer competition from Ryanair, easyJet, Norwegian and Wizz than that provided by JetBlue and SouthWest.

    Be a good airline. Treat customers well. Create an airline people want to fly with. Stop being negative about competition.

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