It’s amazing really to think that one man’s absence may have lurched a White House meeting from one outcome to another. But we live in the age of Donald Trump.
That’s not mean as a compliment or an insult, merely an observation. Josh Lederman of NBC News really did a superb job of digging into what was said in last week’s White House meeting with airline CEOs.
My initial thoughts were that Trump would side with Qatar CEO Akbar Al Baker, a longtime friend. Trump has lauded Doha’s Hamad International Airport as a showcase of progress and was present for a White House signing ceremony the previous week in which Al Baker consummated the purchase of five Boeing 777X aircrafts with General Electric engines. The list price of that deal was $1.8BN, though carriers routinely receive substantial confidential discounts. The deal delighted the President. Qatar is also seen as a strategic ally in helping to quell Iran’s ambitions and the U.S. military maintains a base in Qatar.
But It Was All About Bastian…
But that’s not exactly how it went down. As we would expect, Trump presided over an argument between the U.S. side and Qatari side. Per Lederman, there was a “lot of yelling”. The U.S. side had reached Trump by airing attack ads during Fox & Friends, a Fox News program the President religiously watches each morning. When the President asked about the ads, Al Baker responded in anger, calling the U.S. airlines “liars”.
You might expect Trump just to snicker, but he shot back at Al Baker, accusing him of receiving subsidies from the state of Qatar. At that point, U.S. airline CEOs must have been smiling.
And yet what Trump returned to over and over again during the meeting was Delta CEO Ed Bastian’s absence. Trump rightly noted that Bastian has been the toughest critic of Qatar Airways and Air Italy and Trump was simply incredulous that Bastian refused to attend. Delta said Bastian was on “previously scheduled travel” but provided no further detail. As I discussed last week, it was clear that Bastian simply did not want to meet with the President or Al Baker. Trump also scolded Delta, in absentia, for buying Airbus instead of Boeing aircraft.
Hilariously, Trump also scolded American Airlines’ CEO Doug Parker for his company’s poor stock market performance during a time of historic growth…I would have loved to hear that reaction.
The “Big 3” (American, Delta, and United) find themselves in a far worse position than before the meeting. Trump’s invitation to use the Department of Transportation grievance process was a polite way of saying to go pound sand. And perhaps all of this because Bastian was too timid to attend the meeting…
> 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: City of North Charleston