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"Partnership for Open and Fair Skies Responds to Qatar’s CEO “Man of the Year” Award"; CAPA replies

In its 8 November media release, "Partnership for Open and Fair Skies Responds to Qatar Airways’ CEO “Man of the Year” Award", a spokesperson made comments we'd like to think responsible members of its coalition, including American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, ALPA and others would wish to disassociate themselves from.

This is an open letter response from CAPA who have been, according to the fair people from the Partnership, bought by the Gulf carriers.

While there are many features of the long running campaign against subsidy that may be debatable, the statement issued on 8 November is not only unfair - to CAPA and to Qatar Airways' CEO - but also patently untrue. It also totally misses a very important point.

On 08-Nov-2017, the Partnership for Open and Fair Skies posted the statement below on their website and circulated it on social media.

We'd like to say why it was

(1) not at all "fair";
(2) gratuitously and seriously defamatory; 
(3) totally factually incorrect; and that
(4) most importantly, it totally ignored a very important issue that should be of concern to all involved in the airline industry and beyond.

WASHINGTON, DC (November 8, 2017) – In response to Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker receiving an undeserved “Man of the Year” award from CAPA, the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies released the following statement: “Congratulations to Mr. Al Baker for being named ‘Man of the Year’ when ‘Cheater of the Year’ would be a far more appropriate title,” said Jill Zuckman, chief spokesperson for the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies. “This recognition should be viewed as nothing more than an unsubtle attempt by a CEO who is reliant on government subsidies to buy credibility from an organization that lives in the pocket of the Gulf carriers.”

"Who We Are: Who is behind the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies?"

According to the Partnership's website, "The Partnership for Open & Fair Skies is a coalition composed of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, along with the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l, the Allied Pilots Association, the Airline Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the Communications Workers of America and the Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association."

Defamation and bluster are a poor substitute for serious discussion

CAPA has a high level of credibility in the aviation industry. The media release's statement that anyone can "buy credibility from an organization that lives in the pocket of the Gulf carriers” - while offering no substantiation whatever - seems intentionally defamatory. This sad attempt to discredit anyone who diverges from the highly contentious statements that the Partnership espouses is surely plumbing a new low.

We would like to think that there are some among the "coalition" that the Partnership represents who would have concerns both with the wider statement itself and with the fact that their representatives are intentionally defaming a responsible organisation that happens to adopt positions different from its own.

For the record, CAPA does not consult, to the Gulf carriers or any others, has not received funding from any of the Gulf carriers and is certainly in nobody's "pocket". Nor do we offer anything other than factual analysis that we truly believe to contain fair and accurate commentary. (We do also offer the world's most extensive aviation news service and a wide array of data.)

In light of this, perhaps the Partnership, which so yearns for fairness, will either put up or apologise. Ms Zuckman, if you have any evidence whatever that your statement can be supported in fact, now is your opportunity.

Qatar Airways has been confronted by a move that creates a dangerous precedent for the entire aviation industry

We would hope that many among the Partnership's electorate share our concern at the bullying language used against CAPA.

But more pertinently, we happen to believe the point in issue is far more important in the overall scheme of aviation than a localised and controversial campaign.

The following is why we made the Award to Mr Al Baker - and why anyone who seriously supports the airline industry should be concerned: “Akbar Al Baker has not let Qatar Airways lose its shine during one of its most testing years. Under his guidance, the airline has recalibrated its network to function without access to several neighbouring countries. At the same time, Qatar Airways has continued its expansion plans and created new avenues for growth. He has turned a setback into an opportunity. This is truly a remarkable achievement.”

To put a US perspective on the nature of the impact of the air blockade on Qatar (an exclusively international airline), assume that Canada and Mexico each – overnight, without notice – closed their skies to US airlines (bear in mind also that many US flights to Europe use Canadian airspace.) Mr Al Baker’s achievement in maintaining network operations against this background has been remarkable and it is largely for that we believed he was justly rewarded.

For the record too, Mr Al Baker has recently been appointed Chairman of the board of governors of the world's airline body, IATA. In addition, IATA'S director general Alexandre de Juniac said shortly after the action was taken, “"We are not in favour of the ban. We would like connectivity to be restored as soon as possible,"

And on the more general point there is one vital factor that really should be exercising the minds of fair minded and pro-competition thinkers in the US:
Closing down a vital part of the global aviation airspace has created a serious and potentially dangerous precedent that has so far been effectively ignored by aviation’s highest intergovernmental body and by most national administrations.

The international aviation system relies on cooperation between administrations and airlines on a level that transcends local disagreements and short term commercial needs.

That's why, when CAPA made the presentation in Singapore, there was a unique and spontaneous audience reaction in support of the Award.

Small island nations like Singapore - whose national flag carrier is majority state owned (and highly profitable) and which created benchmark standards for the rest of the world - share concerns that airspace access can be suddenly closed. There are many others who occupy that position. This is not a theoretical matter; it has even happened to Australia in the past, and Canada threatened to close its airspace to UK airlines at one time. Undermining longstanding fundamental norms of airline activity can quickly lead to disruption of the global system, one which we have been able to take for granted for so long.

And failure to act to restore the system, even though it might today inconvenience a competitor, runs the risk of perpetuating disruption which will one day come back to bite us all.

The global industry relies, far more than we often realise, on cooperation between nations that dates back to an immediate post-WW2 era of hope for humanity and a recognition that the alternative has dire repercussions.

Preamble to the Chicago Convention of 1945: "The future development of international civil aviation can greatly help to create and preserve friendship and understanding among the nations and peoples of the world, yet its abuse can become a threat to the general security.."

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