Qatar Airways' inaugural flight to ATL wasn't just the airline's 1st trip to the world's busiest airport. It was a flight into enemy territory.
For the past 2 years, QR and ATL-based DL have been engaged in a very public feud over allegations that Middle Eastern carriers are violating international agreements. As Business Insider’s Benjamin Zhang reports, the feud has taken on soap-opera-like characteristics.
On Tuesday, 517 pax on board QR755 were caught in the middle. After a 14 hr. flight from DOH, the A380 superjumbo landed at ATL. But there was no gate available for pax to deplane.
The airport has only 1 gate capable of handling the massive plane. And it just happened to be occupied by a DL bird at the time.
The QR jet was eventually towed to a remote parking area where pax were offloaded onto buses.
However, the story isn't straightforward. Yes, DL was occupying the only gate QR could use. And DL wasn't going to give it up. But it turns out that QR knew well in advance of the flight's departure that it wasn't going to get the gate.
QR won’t fly the A380 to ATL on a regular basis, but wanted to make a dramatic entrance. Although the carrier alerted the airport almost 6 wk. ahead of the flight, it was less than the 60 day notice period required to change an A380's gate allocations.
"Due to the sheer size of the aircraft, time needed to service and short advance notice the Airport was given, aircraft operations would have been significantly disrupted and would have displaced 4 or 5 other aircraft," ATL spokesman Reese McCranie told Business Insider.
"We knew before the flight that we did not have a gate available," V.P. for the Americas Gunter Saurwein told Business Insider. "So we flew in our best people from around the country to help manage the turnaround of the plane."
Still, on Friday, QR CEO Al Baker called Delta "wicked" and its actions an "absolute violation of the air services agreement."