April 21, 2015
British Airways and Iberia followed by airberlin in resigning membership of AEA
Having started on the other side of the Atlantic, concerns over the operating practices of major Gulf carriers has reached Europe, though not to the same extent as in the USA. Over there, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have already launched an attack on the major Gulf airlines, specifically Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways over what they believe has been the inappropriate state subsidising of the airlines to the tune of US$40bn. As a consequence the three American carriers wish to see an end to the Open Skies agreement between the United States, the UAE and Qatar. The three Gulf carriers vehemently deny any wrongdoing and have continually countermanded any accusations from the USA.
In Europe IAG, which includes British Airways and Iberia, have decided to leave the AEA (Association of European Airlines) based purely on what their chairman, Willie Walsh, felt was a lack of policy alignment. Walsh made it clear that their withdrawal from the AEA had nothing to do with expansion by the Gulf carriers, which one would struggle to disagree with considering Qatar Airways holds approaching a 10% investment stake in IAG. One senses that airberlin are perhaps looking to strengthen the move by IAG to encourage the AEA to focus on specific and important issues and to define a clear policy regarding the positioning of the Gulf carriers in Europe.