Cabin crew representing Qatar Airways attended a special ‘Summer Reading Project’ in Brooklyn, New York City this weekend to read to over 100 children from low-income families. It comes as Doha-based Qatar Airways is in the midst of both a charm offensive with American travellers and a war of words with American air carriers.
The airline said the project was in honour of the tenth anniversary of Qatar Airways serving the U.S. It’s first flight to New York JFK landed on 28th June 2007. Since then, Qatar Airways has opened up routes to nine other U.S. destinations. In 2016 alone, Qatar Airways launched services to Los Angeles, Boston and Atlanta.
Over 10,000 books will be distributed to children throughout New York City as part of what Qatar Airways calls its “commitment to the local communities in which the airline serves.” The airline has teamed up with a non-profit, social enterprise called First Book to create what it’s calling the ‘Qatar Airways Summer Reading Program’.
“As a global airline, we recognise that it is our responsibility as a global corporate citizen to assist the communities in which we serve. In providing the necessary educational resources to children and students to help them succeed, we hope to ignite a life-long interest in exploring; both through the joy of reading and travelling,” explained Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker.
In fairness to Qatar Airways, it has long supported efforts to improve children’s access to education through its onboard charity programme. And for the last three years, the airline has been working in partnership with the ‘Education Above All’ foundation. In fact, Qatar Airways has raised over $2.6 million for the programme since 2014.
But how much of this charity work is genuine philanthropy? Okay, so these handouts are really generous and will no doubt be a huge benefit for these children but did Qatar Airways mean it with the best of intentions? After all, surely airline charity programmes would be better used for helping the most needy in society?
The United States probably doesn’t need to rely on Qatar Airways for charity but it certainly plays out a nice sounding narrative for the airline. This comes just a couple of weeks after Qatar Airways announced its intention to buy a stake in American Airlines. The Qatari’s initially want to invest up to 4.75% in American but there’s been talk of Qatar Airways looking to take up to 10% of the U.S. carrier.
Qatar said it see’s a “strong investment opportunity in American Airlines” but their approach has been rebuffed by Doug Parker, American’s chief executive. Yet, despite Parker claiming to be not “particularly excited about Qatar’s outreach” there’s not really much he can do about it. Although American did recently decide to end its code-share agreements with Qatar Airways (and Etihad Airways).
This is what American Airline had to say about the decision: “In light of our ongoing dispute over the Open Skies agreements, American Airlines notified Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways on June 29 of our decision to terminate our code-share relationships.
“Given the extremely strong public stance that American has taken on the ME3 issue, we have reached the conclusion that the code-sharing relationships between American and these carriers no longer make sense for us. This decision has no material financial impact on American and is an extension of our stance against the illegal subsidies that these carriers receive from their governments.
“We are committed to doing everything we can to continue to support our team members and ensure that there is fair competition between American and the Gulf carriers.”
This isn’t the first time that Qatar Airways has used a free book publicity stunt in its fight with American air carriers. Remember last year when Qatar Airways launched a new route to Atlanta – the home of Delta Air Lines? At the time, Baker claimed he was starting the service “in order to rub salt into the wounds of Delta.”
Just a few weeks later, Qatar Airways was handing out books to 500 students in what it called its “School’s Out, Reading Is In!” programme.