Air Italy’s New Uniform Just Cements the Concern its Qatar Airways With a Different Name

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Of all the different branding elements that an airline can use, the cabin crew uniform has to be one of the most important.  From the distinctive red hats worn by Emirates cabin crew or the iconic sarong kabaya of Singapore Airlines, the right uniform can instantly bring brand recognition and evoke feelings of trust and professionalism.

It’s understandable then that airlines spend a fair amount of time, effort and money developing the right uniform.  Staff not only have to be smart and professional but the look has to make them ‘stand out from the crowd’ – a walking billboard if you like that will hopefully make passengers stop in their tracks.

You would have thought then that a new airline would want to dress its crew in a uniform that really is different.  That, however, can’t be said of Air Italy – look quickly and you could easily be forgiven for thinking they’re from Qatar Airways.

It’s a strange decision and one that is only going to cement the concern raised by many critics that Air Italy is a subsidiary of State-funded Qatar Airways – being used to circumvent an agreement the Persian Gulf country reached with the United States last year.

Air Italy isn’t technically brand new – Qatar Airways bought a 49% stake in little-known Italian airline Meridiana a couple of years ago.  Then, in February 2018, Qatar Airways announced plans to rebrand Meridiana as Air Italy – there are plans to grow the ‘new’ airline quite significantly over the next few years.

By 2022, Air Italy hopes to have 50 aircraft in its fleet – the airline will be getting brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s, as well as 737 MAX aircraft that have all been funded by Qatar Airways.  In the interim, Qatar Airways has also leased out its own A330 aircraft.

Air Italy says it will work with Qatar Airways to “build a sustainable airline alternative for the people of Italy”.

In fairness, the involvement of Qatar Airways with Air Italy has always been fairly obvious – the branding makes use of the distinctive Qatari burgundy colour in the bucket load.  Apart from the fact the airline has the word ‘Italy’ in its name, you wouldn’t know it was actually Italian.

And then there’s the uniform – aside from the Air Italy logo and an updated neck scarf, the uniform is exactly the same to the one worn by Qatar Airways cabin crew.  We actually thought this was a temporary solution but no, Air Italy confirms this is the permanent uniform that was originally designed for Qatar Airways by Danish workwear company Olino in 2008.

Critics claim Qatar Airways has received (it’s claimed) over $25 billion in undocumented subsidies from its government owner, so in turn, the argument goes that Air Italy has also been financed through State-funded subsidies.  You would have thought that Air Italy would want to distance itself from its controversial majority shareholder.

The timing for Air Italy’s launch has also raised eyebrows – it came just months after Qatar and the United States reached an agreement over an Open Skies dispute.  Qatar agreed to become more transparent and also said it had no plans to open any fifth-freedom routes to the United States.

You could argue that Qatar Airways investing in Air Italy is no different than any other airline making international investments – say, like Delta Air Lines buying a stake in Virgin Atlantic in order to increase its market share at London’s Heathrow Airport.  But Delta says that’s missing the point.

Qatar Airways isn’t subject to market forces like Delta because it’s funded through government subsidies.  Essentially, they claim the competition that Air Italy is creating might be good for passengers but it’s not fair and could put jobs at risk.

That argument, though, is slightly clouded by the existence of Alitalia.  The Italian flag-carrier hasn’t made a profit in years, is technically bankrupt and is being propped up by a multi-billion Euro government loan paid for by Italian taxpayers.  For all intents and purposes, the airline should have gone out of business but is only still flying because it’s being bankrolled by the Italian State.

The plan is to offload Alitalia on to private investors by the Summer – if that does actually happen (there’s every chance it doesn’t) then that could make it a lot harder to justify where Air Italy is getting its funding from.

Originally published on Paddle Your Own Kanoo.

americans4fairskies2015Air Italy’s New Uniform Just Cements the Concern its Qatar Airways With a Different Name
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President Trump’s Leadership on Open Skies Has Paid off for American Travelers

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In 1987, then-real estate mogul Donald Trump laid out the strategies and wisdom that built him one of America’s largest real estate empires in his book The Art of the Deal. Now, as President of the United States, Donald Trump has been using those same tactics to deliver real results for the American people, and it’s time he gets some credit for his work.

The first people in line to thank him should be America’s air travelers, as we’re approaching the one-year anniversary of the Trump administration’s decision to protect America’s Open Skies agreements with some of our key global partners. To provide a little bit of background, the U.S. government negotiates Open Skies agreements with foreign countries to open up the market for air travel worldwide.

Before the existence of such agreements, foreign governments pulled the strings when it came to decisions about air service within their borders. How many flights were allowed to enter the country, how many people could be accommodated on board, and how much airline tickets should cost are just some of the important determinations that were out of airlines’ control.

Open Skies puts the power back in these airlines’ hands, allowing them to consider demand when operating in new markets, rather than relying on governments to make these decisions for them. By removing the restraints of bureaucracy, Open Skies has done wonders for the American travel and tourism industry. 

Just ask the State Department, which cites “expanded international passenger and cargo flights to and from the United States, promoting increased travel and trade, enhancing productivity, and spurring high-quality job opportunities and economic growth” as just some of the many benefits we have seen due to Open Skies.

It’s no wonder that the United States has signed over 120 of these agreements with a range of different countries.

However, another characteristic of Open Skies agreements is that they inject competition into aviation markets, which has been a bitter pill to swallow for some of America’s larger airline carriers. Over the years, these legacy carriers – Delta, United, and American – have challenged Open Skies agreements with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates specifically, pushing the Trump administration to renegotiate our longstanding deals with these countries.

Thankfully, under the guidance of President Trump, last year the State Department stood up against their requests and refused to undermine Open Skies, a move that has paid dividends for American citizens from coast to coast.

Why is this decision so important? For starters, the very Gulf carriers being targeted by the legacy carriers brought 1.7 million foreign visitors to the United States in 2016. These individuals spent nearly $7.8 billion while inside our borders and supported nearly 80,000 additional U.S. jobs. The economic toll of losing customers like these would be devastating to American enterprise.

Open Skies are also essential for the U.S. aviation industry to function at its highest level. As more travelers enter the United States, smaller domestic airlines serving mid-sized cities have been able to expand their routes and offer new connecting flights. This is especially powerful for consumers living outside of major cities like New York and Los Angeles, as they’re given more choice when booking their flights.

Plus, while competition may not be the best thing for Delta’s bottom line, it lets the market decide what prices airlines should charge for their tickets. In the case of Open Skies, this has saved passengers an estimated $4 billion.

Without President Trump’s leadership, the American public wouldn’t be able to take full advantage of these benefits. So, the next time you’re looking at flights or booking a ticket, it’s President Trump and his administration that deserve the credit for keeping your fares low and choices high.

Originally published on Townhall.

americans4fairskies2015President Trump’s Leadership on Open Skies Has Paid off for American Travelers
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Matt Gaetz tells Trump to get tough on Qatar for ‘Cheating’ US Airline Companies

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A GOP lawmaker sent a letter to President Donald Trump Wednesday calling for the White House to take action against Qatar for violating international Open Skies agreements and a 2018 pact between the two countries.

Qatar is “cheating” U.S. airlines by subsidizing foreign competitors, cutting flight prices and outcompeting American companies in U.S. markets, according to GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida.

Open Skies policies are meant to limit governments from subsidizing and aiding certain airlines or interfering with others by setting strict limits on flight routes, prices and carrying capacity. For years, American carries had accused Qatar and its state-owned airline Qatar Airways of violating Open Skies to capture U.S. markets.

“Last year, you [Trump] negotiated a deal for greater Qatari transparency and to put an end to their illegal subsidies for their state-owned airline Qatar Airways – even including the halt of expansion by Qatar Airways into the United States until these subsidies were completely ended,” Gaetz wrote. “It was an ‘America First’ victory.”

After the bilateral agreement, Qatar Airways purchased a controlling share in the Italian airline Meridiana. Qatar renamed and rebranded the acquisition Air Italy and began subsidizing it with cash and assets, including new planes. Qatar is now using the new company to compete for U.S. flight routes against American companies, Gaetz’s letter said.

“Air Italy is nothing more than a proxy airline for Qatar to get around the deal it signed after pledging to stop this trade cheating,” Gaetz said.

“Not only does Qatar’s cheating undermine competition and threaten American workers – over 1,500 American jobs are lost for every route launched into the U.S. by a subsidized Middle Eastern carrier – but it directly and deliberately threatens our ‘America First’ policies,” Gaetz continued.

Originally published on The Daily Caller.

americans4fairskies2015Matt Gaetz tells Trump to get tough on Qatar for ‘Cheating’ US Airline Companies
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Lawmakers urges Trump to enforce Open Skies deal with Qatar

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A Republican ally of President Trump is urging the president to enforce an agreement with Qatar aimed at stopping illegal subsidies for its state-owned airline, saying the Middle Eastern nation is cheating on the deal and harming U.S. airline workers.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told Mr. Trump in a letter obtained by The Washington Times that Qatar is “blatantly” violating the Open Skies agreement that is intended to ensure fair competition.

The lawmaker said soon after the agreement was reached last year, Qatar Airways purchased an Italian regional airline with $100 million euros from the Qatari government and announced that the new “Air Italy” would fly to five cities in the U.S. In December, a bipartisan group of senators raised similar concerns with the administration.

“Not only does Qatar’s cheating undermine competition and threaten American workers — over 1,500 American jobs are lost for every route launched into the U.S. by a subsidized Middle Eastern carrier — but it directly and deliberately threatens our ‘America First’ policies,” the lawmaker wrote.

He said the Open Skies agreement was supposed to halt the expansion by Qatar Airways into the U.S. until its state subsidies were halted completely.

“Air Italy is nothing more than a proxy airline for Qatar to get around the deal it signed after pledging to stop this trade cheating,” Mr. Gaetz wrote to the president.

Originally published on The Washington Times.

americans4fairskies2015Lawmakers urges Trump to enforce Open Skies deal with Qatar
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Newt Gingrich: It’s time to hold Qatar accountable

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Negotiations between nation states require a great deal of flexibility and discipline. In the past few days, we’ve seen a variety of international negotiating tactics from the Trump administration.

Early last week, we saw strategic restraint. President Trump announced he would delay implementation of an additional $200 billion in tariffs on Chinese products due to progress in trade negotiations with the country. After already following through on the implementation of $250 billion in tariffs last year, which brought China to the table, Trump wanted to send a signal that the United States is a good faith partner. Ultimately, this restraint may allow talks to continue to move smoothly.

Then, late last week, we saw a display of strength. The President abruptly cut short his summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong un because Kim’s demands were unreasonable. Trump needed to remind the North Korean leader that his country is the one that is economically desolate and isolated, and North Korea needs a deal more than the United States.

In the coming days, I hope we will see another negotiating tactic from President Trump in his administration’s international dealings: resolve.

As I have written before for Fox News, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have for decades subsidized their state-owned airlines in violation of their Open Skies Agreements with the United States.

Open Skies Agreements between countries allow airlines to establish international flights without prior approval from the government. A central tenet of the 126 Open Skies Agreements the United States has with countries that have state-owned carriers is that the flights must reflect actual market demand. This ensures that state-owned carriers do not create international flights that operate at a loss for the purpose of driving other airlines out of business. This ensures a level playing field between privately owned and state-owned airlines.

A strong, resolute response to Qatar from our government would show that the United States is no longer going to put up with global cheating in trade. A weak response sends the signal that the Trump administration is not as effective in standing up for American workers as it needs to be. All these countries we are negotiating with will feel emboldened to cheat.  

Unfortunately, monitoring whether state-owned airlines are living up to this agreement is difficult. For years, Qatar and UAE got away with creating below-market international flights to and from the United States by keeping their finances opaque. But they couldn’t get away with it forever.

The Trump administration took a big step in January 2018 by forcing Qatar to agree to transparency in its airlines’ finances. Also, in a side letter to the agreement, the administration got Qatar’s leadership to commit to refrain from adding more flights from third-party countries to the U.S.

Unfortunately, Qatar quickly began to find ways to circumvent this agreement.

Qatar Airways has a 49 percent stake in Air Italy. However, despite this minority ownership position, the president of Qatar Airways often makes announcements about the future of Air Italy as if he is in charge. This makes sense because Air Italy is depending on Qatar Airways – and thus dependent on the government of Qatar – to stay afloat. Since acquiring the airline in 2017, Qatar Airways has provided cash, airplanes, and other resources. In fact, two years before the announcement, Air Italy operated at a combined 50 million-euro loss. Qatar Airways gave it 100 million euros in cash and guarantees to make up the gap – in addition to aircraft.

Over the course of the last year, Air Italy has launched or announced five new flights from Milan to the United States. This is clearly a violation of the agreement Qatar signed with the Trump administration. Qatar is simply using Air Italy to do that which it agreed not to do – launch heavily subsidized service to the U.S. across the Atlantic.

It is also typical of the type of maneuvers that different countries – especially ones who subsidize their industries – use to circumvent trade agreements and tariffs. They simply buy an ownership stake in a foreign company not subject to the trade measure and go back to their old practices under a new flag.

How the Trump administration responds to Qatar’s truly blatant and obvious cheating is critical.

In addition to the negotiations with China, the U.S. recently came to terms with Mexico and Canada on an updated version of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, which is much fairer to the United States. We also reached an agreement with Asian Pacific countries.

These new agreements won’t be worth the paper they are written on if the United States will not enforce them.

A strong, resolute response to Qatar from our government would show that the United States is no longer going to put up with global cheating in trade. A weak response sends the signal that the Trump administration is not as effective in standing up for American workers as it needs to be. All these countries we are negotiating with will feel emboldened to cheat.

The U.S. should immediately protest Qatar Airways actions to the Qatari government and use full diplomatic pressure to get the government to order their airline to halt the new flights. If the Qatari government does not act quickly, President Trump should be prepared to use the U.S. government’s authority to limit Air Italy’s ability to operate in the United States.

By doing so, President Trump would be standing up for the American workers in the airline industry. He would also be putting the U.S. in a more authoritative position to stand up for workers in all American industries against unfair foreign competition.

Originally published on Fox News.

americans4fairskies2015Newt Gingrich: It’s time to hold Qatar accountable
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