By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump planned to meet on Thursday with the chief executives of major American airlines and Qatar Airways to discuss their accusations that subsidies by Qatar and United Arab Emirates are costing jobs in the United States.
The 3:30 p.m. EDT (1930 GMT) meeting between Trump and the CEOs of American Airlines <AAL.O>, United Airlines <UAL.O>, JetBlue Airways Corp <JBLU.O>, FedEx Corp <FDX.N>, Atlas Air <AAWW.O> and Qatar will also include Vice President Mike Pence, the White House said.
Since 2015 the largest U.S carriers – Delta Air Lines <DAL.N>, American and United Airlines – have argued their Gulf rivals are being unfairly subsidized by their governments, distorting competition and costing U.S. jobs – something the Gulf carriers deny.
The CEOs of JetBlue, FedEx and Atlas Air have warned that restricting the rights of Qatar Airways could lead to retaliation against U.S. carriers.
In April, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration was scrutinizing state-owned Qatar Airways’ acquisition of a 49% stake in Air Italy, which has been flying to U.S. destinations since June in a move seen by U.S. lawmakers as flouting a deal not to add new flights to the domestic market.
Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have said they were concerned that the deal with the Italian carrier contravened an agreement Qatar Airways reached with the United States in early 2018.
Qatar Airways acquired the 49% of Italian airline Meridiana in 2017, rebranded it Air Italy and transformed it into a carrier with five announced non-stop U.S. destinations from Milan.
In a side letter to the agreements, the Qatari government indicated there was no intention to launch additional flights from Qatar to U.S. destinations but said some passengers would board flights in Europe before flying to U.S. destinations.
(Reporting by Steve Holland and David Shepardson; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason; editing by Chris Reese and Marguerita Choy)