President Donald Trump is not pleased with Delta's CEO. Ed Bastian had to miss a meeting airline leaders had with the president. The president reportedly “scolded” Delta “for buying billions in planes from the European firm Airbus while Qatar Airways is buying its jets from Chicago-based Boeing Co.” Delta issued a statement saying Bastian was unable to attend because of "previously scheduled travel that couldn't be adjusted." Bastian has spent years fostering a positive relationship with the president.

Report: Trump reacts to Delta CEO missing Oval Office meeting

Delta CEO Ed Bastian ended up on President Donald Trump’s bad side by missing a meeting of airline leaders with the president, according to a report by NBC News.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz and other airline CEOs attended an hourlong session with Trump in the Oval Office earlier this month, the report said. At the meeting, Munoz and Parker argued that Middle Eastern carriers get government subsidies allowing cut-rate fares, which cost American jobs. Delta is part of a coalition with American and United lobbying their case on the matter.

However, Bastian was traveling and not able to attend the meeting.

President Donald Trump tours the old Jamestown Settlement.
Photo: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The president “scolded” Delta, according to the NBC News report, “for buying billions in planes from the European firm Airbus while Qatar Airways is buying its jets from Chicago-based Boeing Co.”

“And he repeatedly harped on Bastian’s absence, questioning how he could be a no-show after his airline — more than any other — had been fanning the flames of the fight,” NBC News reported, based on interviews with people who spoke anonymously. “Trump kept bringing up the absence of Bastian, the Delta CEO.”

“There was a lot of yelling,” one person who attended the meeting told NBC News, according to the report.

Delta issued a statement saying: “Due to previously scheduled travel that couldn't be adjusted, Ed Bastian was unable to attend the meeting with the president; however his and Delta’s commitment to leveling the playing field for international aviation remains as strong as ever.”

Bastian has spent years fostering a positive relationship with the president, pledging to hire 25,000 people in five years following a 2017 meeting of airline CEOs with the president, praising Trump’s tax reform plan and thanking the Trump Administration for a 2018 agreement with Qatar to protect American jobs.

However, Delta, American and United now contend that Qatar Airways is taking advantage of a loophole in the agreement by backing Air Italy in an expansion to North America.

An opposing coalition of U.S. carriers including JetBlue, which partners with Dubai-based airline Emirates, backs the Open Skies agreements with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The CEOs of the carriers in that coalition, including JetBlue, FedEx and Atlas Air, were also invited to the meeting to make their case against the Big Three passenger airlines.

And one guest invited to this month’s meeting — Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker — has had a personal tiff with Delta dating back to the tenure of former CEO Richard Anderson.

In 2015, Anderson told CNN: “It’s a great irony to have the United Arab Emirates from the Arabian peninsula talk about (bailouts for U.S. airlines) 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 comment prompted criticism, including from Al Baker, who reportedly said: “Let him come face to face with me in any forum. … I will hang him on a wall.”

And in 2017, Al Baker reportedly said Qatar Airways’ launch of service to Atlanta from Doha, the capital of Qatar, would “rub salt in the wounds” of Delta, according to a Reuters article.

When Qatar launched its flights to Atlanta, a clash over a gate involving Delta forced Qatar Airways to park its inaugural flight on the tarmac and disembark passengers using mobile staircases and shuttle buses. Al Baker called Delta “wicked” for ruining the launch of Qatar Airways’ service to Atlanta, according to a Bloomberg report.

Earlier this summer, Al Baker visited the White House and joined Trump for dinner.

Then, he was invited to return and join the U.S. airline CEOs for the meeting in the Oval Office, according to the NBC report.

The meeting between the two sides quickly became tense.

Al Baker called the American and United CEOs “liars,” according to the NBC report, and “Trump ribbed him back, telling Al Baker he takes money from the Qatari government.”

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About the Author

Kelly Yamanouchi
Kelly Yamanouchi
Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi covers airlines and the airport.
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