Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker can smile today. He won the battle at the White House. President Donald Trump sided with him…and perhaps for reasons having less to do with the issue itself than over ego.
A successful warrior must know his adversary. A successful lawyer must know his audience. Al Baker clearly demonstrated this. He carefully laid the groundwork for this meeting and owned it like a salesman closing a deal.
As I wrote yesterday, Delta CEO Ed Bastian, who has complained about Air Italy and Qatar Airways more than any other U.S. figure, declined to attend the White House meeting over this issue. Delta blamed “previously scheduled travel” for his absence:
Ed unfortunately had some previously scheduled travel that he was unable to reschedule. He is appreciative of opportunities … to discuss this important issue with the president and members of the administration. Delta remains 100% committed to leveling the playing field in international aviation.
But the White House was not amused. An insider told CNBC:
The real story is that Delta refused the invite. That didn’t help their cause.
Trump was apparently fuming during the meeting that Bastian declined his invite, bringing it up several times. Meanwhile, Al Baker used the opportunity to remind Trump that he flew in all the way from Doha to take part in the meeting.
See, Trump and Al Baker have friends for years (see photos above). Trump has also expressed amazement over Doha’s Hamad International Airport in the past, which he sees as a model for U.S. airports. And perhaps that relationship has helped Al Baker to pick up on what Bastian missed. Trump 1.) thinks very highly of himself and 2.) does not tolerate slights.
…or a very nervous and skinny version of Pocahontas (1/1024th), as your President, rather than what you have now, so great looking and smart, a true Stable Genius! Sorry to say that even Social Media would be driven out of business along with, and finally, the Fake News Media!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 11, 2019
Al Baker Laid The Groundwork in Advance
It wasn’t just Al Baker’s presence in the meeting that swayed Trump. Earlier this month, Trump appeared with Al Baker to announce Qatar Airways would be buying Boeing jets and using General Electric engines. Other than direct flattery, the best way to Trump’s heart is to support U.S. manufacturing jobs. Al Baker’s investment in Boeing and GE pleased the President and comes in stark contrast to Delta’s recent decision to order Airbus A220s and A330neos over Boeing jets. In other words, talk is cheap for Delta.
US airline CEOs were apparently shocked when they learned Al Baker would be at the meeting. In fact, that may even be why Bastian refused to attend. But a White House official said:
The president expressly wanted the Qatar CEO as he wanted a variety of perspectives, as he always does.
After listening to both sides, Trump essentially sided with Qatar, telling US airlines to use the “mechanisms available in law” to adjudicate their grievances. Just as Bastian’s “travel” excuse was a nice way of saying no, so was Trump’s suggestion to use existing channels. US airlines have already done so to no avail, even in a protectionist administration.
Carl von Clausewitz famously said, “War is a continuation of politics by other means.” Wars are fought on many fronts and Al Baker can claim victory in this battle through his employment of shrewd diplomacy. But the war is not over yet. We will see what battle US carriers wage next.
But don’t let Al Baker’s shrewdness take away from the greater point. This so-called subsidy issue is so clear-cut that even a child can objectively listen to both sides and agree with Qatar’s position on Air Italy. We must not forget that either.
> Read More:
- Dense, Dimwitted Logic From A Deliberately Deceptive Delta CEO
- U.S. Airlines Pandering To President Trump In Gratuitous New Ad
- Delta’s Victory Lap Over a Meaningless Agreement
- Qatar vs. Delta – Who Really Won?
- A Dishonest Smear in the Fight Over Gulf Subsidies
- 10 Ways Taxpayers Subsidize U.S. Airlines
- Exposed: Shameful Double Standards on Airline Subsidies
Image: Doha News