Typically when I think of airline CEOs who say mindless things, the first person who comes to mind is Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways’ CEO. However, I’m fairly certain Delta’s CEO, Richard Anderson, is doing everything he can to take over the title of being the most ridiculous guy in the airline industry.
In the battle for Open Skies, Delta’s CEO linked the “big three” Middle Eastern carriers to terrorism. After that gaffe you’d think he would keep his mouth shut for a while, or at least not be the poster-child for the US airlines in this Open Skies debate.
But unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, for the Middle Eastern carriers) Richard Anderson just keeps on talking and talking and talking. What’s his accusation against the Middle Eastern carriers this time? That they’ve kept the US airlines out of India. Why? Because “subsidies.”
Via The Economic Times:
Government subsidies have forced major US airlines out of the Indian market, a top airlines executive has said.
“India is a very big country. It has a huge trade relationship with the US, particularly for IT, has huge agricultural trade between the two countries,” chief executive of Delta Airlines Richard Anderson told reporters yesterday during a luncheon meeting at the National Press Club.
“But in essence we don’t really have any aviation trade. We have exited the market completely,” Anderson said.
“Because essentially what these carriers have done is with subsidised government strategies, come into the marketplace to basically shift the traffic off of us and take us out of the Indian market,” he said.
“And think about it. US flag carriers ought to be in the Indian market. American and Delta should be in the Indian market. But it’s not sustainable when you have that. When you have USD 41 billion worth of subsidy it’s very difficult, if not impossible for us to be able to compete. And that harm is immediate,” he added.
I mean, Richard does make a very valid point. Delta used to have a dozen daily flights to India out of all of their hubs, and one by one they just became unsustainable because the big, bad Middle Eastern carriers. They were really “taken out of the market,” as he says.
Oh wait, no they didn’t and no they weren’t. Delta once operated a nonstop flight between the US and India. Delta launched a flight between Atlanta and Mumbai in 2008, when oil prices were at their peak. Less than a year later they discontinued the route.
Jeez, was it really Etihad or Qatar preventing Delta from flying to India in 2008 (when the Gulf carriers had only a fraction of the service to the US which they have now)? Nope, it was the fact that ultra longhaul flights simply aren’t profitable with 2008 oil prices. And that doesn’t even account for the fact that it takes time for demand and market share to grow. You have to keep a route for more than a year to figure out if it’s sustainable long term.
But here’s the great irony in all of this. Delta — or the US carriers on the whole — never really saw the potential of India. For years they were all “China! China! China! China!” And they completely ignored India. And now they’re blaming the Middle Eastern carriers for their lack of vision when it comes to India.
Here’s the part I can’t get over, though. Delta is literally the world’s most profitable airline (in terms of net profit). Literally. Yet somehow they’re playing the victim card, somehow they’re not capable of starting service to India, in their own mind. And that’s utterly ludicrous.
The “big three” US carriers are among the three largest airlines in the world, and they have many longhaul, fuel efficient planes on order, like the 787. Are they really trying to tell us they couldn’t make a point-to-point 787 service between the US and India work? And if they can’t, how on earth are the Middle Eastern carriers to blame for that?
Man, I’m starting to think Akbar Al Baker is spot on about Richard Anderson (they need to have a debate, and it needs to be on pay per view).
When the US airlines first made their Open Skies argument, they were onto something. Which isn’t to say they were right, but it was something that was at least worth looking into. What this has devolved into, however, is just pathetic.
“Wahhh, the Middle Eastern carriers kicked us out of a market we never even tried to get into. Subsidies. Terrorism. How are we
the most profitable airline in the world supposed to survive?! Wahhh.”
Is anyone taking Richard Anderson seriously anymore?