There’s no bigger troll in the aviation industry it would seem than Akbar Al Baker, the often outspoken chief executive of Qatar Airways. Just a few weeks after Delta Air Lines made a shock announcement that it was acquiring a 20 per cent stake in LATAM, it’s arch-nemesis now says it is weighing up increasing its own 10 per cent stake in the Latin American carrier.
At the end of September, Delta said it had agreed to invest $1.9 billion in LATAM in a deal that caught the industry off guard. The deal brought to an end a longstanding partnership between LATAM and Delta’s competitor American Airlines and also resulted in LATAM pulling out of the OneWorld alliance – leaving a major whole hole for the alliance in Latin and South America.
Speaking to Reuters during a press conference to celebrate the launch of a new route between Doha and Langkawi, Maylasia the Qatar Airways chief executive said he was now mulling the possibility of raising his airline’s stake in LATAM. The government-owned Qatar Airways originally acquired a 10 per cent in LATAM back in 2016.
There’s been a bitter rivalry between Delta and Qatar Airways for several years – Ed Bastain, Delta’s chief executive has launched several fierce attacks on Qatar Airways accusing it of distorting the market by receiving billions of dollars in state aid. Bastian has claimed Qatar’s growth into the United States has put American jobs at risk and had condemned the airline’s investment in Italian carrier Air Italy.
Meanwhile, Baker has previously said he launched a route between Doha and Delta’s home city of Atlanta out of “spite”. Just a few days ago, Baker was hosting the LATAM board of directors in Doha in what some have considered a deliberate trolling of Delta.
Nonetheless, Baker offered praise to Delta for its LATAM deal, saying it had “outmanoeuvred” American Airlines.
Not that there’s any love lost between Qatar Airways and American Airlines – Baker has threatened to withdraw Qatar Airways from the OneWorld alliance on several occasions in the last year because of American’s behaviour towards his airline. A final decision on that front is yet to be made…
“We have not made our final decision but we are still considering withdrawing,” Baker was quoted by Reuters as saying.
“We have been requested by other major players in the alliance to hold on, to see if they can repair the impasse that we have between us and American Airlines.”
And there was time for one final dig, with Baker saying he had been expecting a “major change” at American after a recent shakeup of its board of directors. It’s widely believed that Baker was referring to speculation that American’s under-fire chief exec, Doug Parker was set to leave the airline.