Qatar Airways still wants American Airlines despite rebuffs

Qatar Airways wants to buy 10% of American Airlines
Qatar Airways wants to buy 10% of American Airlines

Qatar Airways still loves American Airlines. But the relationship is looking increasingly one-sided.

The big Gulf carrier said Thursday it was pressing on with plans to buy a 10% stake in its U.S. rival even after American Airlines ditched their code sharing agreement.

The move by American Airlines means the carriers won't be able to book customers on each other's flights from March 2018. American Airlines also said it would no longer code share with Etihad Airways of Abu Dhabi.

In a statement Wednesday, the U.S. carrier said the agreements "no longer make sense" given its "extremely strong public stance" against Qatar Airways, Etihad, and Dubai's Emirates.

American Airlines, along with Delta and United Airlines, have repeatedly accused the big Gulf carriers of taking huge government subsidies that have helped them become global players.

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They want President Trump's administration to review the Open Skies agreements that allow the Gulf carriers to fly freely from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to any U.S. destination. They claim the airlines rapid expansion in the U.S. is hurting American jobs. The three airlines deny the accusations.

Etihad said it was "disappointed" with American's decision, describing it as "anti-competitive and anti-consumer."

Qatar Airways and American Airlines are still partners in the OneWorld alliance. Last month, Qatar Airways said it was planning to buy an initial stake of 4.75% of American Airlines -- the most it can own without the prior approval of American's board -- but ultimately wanted to own 10%.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker clearly isn't thrilled at the prospect of closer ties. He wrote to employees last month telling them executives "aren't particularly excited" about Qatar's interest in acquiring a big stake.

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He won't have been amused, either, by Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker's reported remarks earlier this week describing air hostesses on American carriers as "grandmothers." Al Baker boasted that the average age of his cabin crew was 26.

Al Baker has since apologized.

"I should like to apologize unreservedly to those offended by my recent remarks which compared Qatar Airways cabin crew with cabin crew on US carriers," he said in a statement. "The remarks were made informally at a private gala dinner, following comments about the Qatar Airways cabin service, and were in no way intended to cause offense."

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