Open mouth, insert Widget

I’d like to believe that maybe this was just a case of mistaken judgment on the part of Delta CEO Richard Anderson. Surely he didn’t mean to go on TV with CNN’s Richard Quest and suggest that it is OK for the US carriers to try to pull back on Open Skies agreements, particularly related to the “Big 3” Middle East airlines, because of 9/11. Because that’s crazy, isn’t it?? And yet the video is online and it is hard to dispute that he went there (~5:20 in to the interview).

Anderson, along with the CEOs of United Airlines and American Airlines, is lobbying the US government to restrict access of the Big 3 to the US market. The argument being made, among other things, is that those airlines receive unfair government subsidies. Late last week Emirates CEO fought back, suggesting that the US carriers should improve their products to be able to compete rather than complaining. Clark also suggested that US carriers received government benefits during the Chapter 11 reorganizations of the past decade. When that topic came up in the Richard Quest segment Anderson got quite defensive:

[I]t’s a great irony to have the United Arab Emirates – from the Arabian Peninsula – talk about [Chapter 11 bankruptcies], given the fact that our industry was really shocked by the terrorism of 9/11 which came from terrorists from the Arabian Peninsula, that caused us to go through a massive restructuring.

The part where 15 of the 19 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia, home of Delta’s SkyTeam partner Saudia, makes the complaint all the more bizarre.

So, as I said at the beginning of the post, I’d like to think that Anderson was confused or distracted and didn’t really mean to go there. But I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. I’ve met him and he is a very sharp, very focused man. It is hard for me to come up with a scenario where he did not prep for this particular topic going in to the interview. So why go there?

Read MoreThe fight over Open Skies: Business as Usual

I really have no idea. Maybe the US CEOs feel that they’re not getting enough press time on this topic so they decided to drum up a bit of controversy and get more discussion going. I suppose that will happen, but it comes across as an uninformed rant rather than a smart, sharp attack.

I just don’t get it. But there it is. I cannot turn away watching the video. Like a train wreck on screen over and over again. Absolutely bizarre.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Wow…. There are *A LOT* of legitimate issues with the ME3 carriers which could be discussed, so to conflate them with terrorism is not just ethically suspect, but stupid on Anderson’s part.

  2. I don’t mean to defend this guy, but his “response” was to the question of why Delta used government money right after 9/11?

    So really, this was a “charged question” (“irony?”) especially when it comes to the Middle East. So he clearly had this “card” in his back pocket as a counter play to gain political support from certain segments…

    1. It is easy to say that the Ch11 reorganization was necessary due to 9/11 without the batshit crazy statement associating Emirates with the attacks.

      Whether Ch11 is a government-supported subsidy or not is a different debate, but it would have absolutely been possible for Anderson to answer that one without making the statement he did.

  3. Anderson is drunk with profits and addicted to share price bonuses. Either that or he’s lost his mind.
    If he loathes Saudi Arabia then go after his lame partner, Saudia.
    Pretty sure Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are not promoting terrorism and had nothing to do with 9/11.
    His comments are stupid and arrogant.
    He should stick to doing his pre-flight safety videos.

  4. Geoff is Correct. That man is Arrogant and is drunk with huge compensation and share price bonuses. Delta, American, and United should treat passengers with respect and improve their service in order to compete with foreign airlines, not just Qatar, Emirates, and Etihad. They should be ashamed to tag a fee on everything that passengers carry; inflight food and beverage, baggage, and audio/video ear piece. On top of that, their flight attendants are nasty and full of attitude like Anderson. Why, we as paying passengers, should patronize their shitty airline?

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