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Qatar Airways' plans to boost US flights upset airlines

Tuesday, May 5, 2015 - 00:05

[NEW YORK] Qatar Airways on Monday said it plans to expand its services to the United States, in a move that rankled US airlines which accuse it of competing unfairly through state subsidies.

The Gulf carrier announced its first direct flights to Los Angeles, Boston and Atlanta from its Doha hub and its second daily flight to New York.

The expansion comes as Delta Air Lines Inc, United Continental Holdings Inc and American Airlines Group Inc press for a temporary freeze on new Gulf airline service to the United States.

The US airlines and their unions have alleged that Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways have received more than US$40 billion in subsidies from their home governments in the last decade.

This, they say, has allowed the Gulf carriers to drive down ticket prices and begin pushing competitors out of key markets.

The Gulf carriers have denied the allegations and said US airlines are losing market share due to poor service. "This is yet another example of the Gulf carriers racing against the clock to dump more subsidized capacity on the US and diverting passengers away from the U.S. airlines," Jill Zuckman, spokeswoman for the coalition of US airlines and unions known as the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, said in a statement on Monday. "The harm from these actions is real and immediate," she said.

Qatar Airways said it would fly two-aisle Boeing Co 777 aircraft to Los Angeles and Atlanta. It would fly a two-aisle Airbus Group NV 350-900 XWB aircraft on its Boston route and for its second New York flight.

Los Angeles service begins Jan 1, 2016, followed by extra New York service on March 1, Boston service on March 16 and Atlanta service on July 1.

While the Obama administration said it would begin reviewing interested parties' comments on the subsidy claims by the end of May, the three US airlines have charged the Gulf carriers with taking advantage of the waiting period, with Emirates also adding new flights to Orlando, Boston and Seattle.

Akbar Al Baker, chief executive officer of Qatar Airways Group, said in a statement, "As Qatar Airways continues its global expansion, we are delighted to be offering even more gateways in the United States, connecting passengers from destinations across the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Africa and Southeast Asia."

REUTERS