Call it, “Atlanta-Gate,” or “Qatar-strophe,” but it’s actually quite a sad story.
I will confess that when I read on Thursday that Qatar Airways’ inaugural flight to Atlanta was denied an Airbus A380-capable gate upon arrival, I laughed.
There has been an unending story of hysterics between Delta Air Lines and the MEB3 centered around theatrics and accusations of alleged subsidies and unfair practices executed by the Persian Gulf as they prop up carriers that flood markets with excess seats and low fares. The hysteria has been resemblant of high school girls behaving in a Mean Girls fashion.
So when I learned that Qatars’ inaugural flight to Atlanta, the headquarters of Delta and its largest U.S. hub, flew its largest plane in a one-off scenario to show off, and walked away with egg on its face, I thought the stunt was funny.
Then, I read about the ramifications of such a move and my laughter subsided. Allegedly, Qatar had flown its largest plane to Atlanta on the inaugural flight to, “rub salt in the wound” since Delta has been vehemently opposing Qatar’s growth in the United States. But in Atlanta, the only Airbus A380-equipped gate was coincidentally, “utilized” at the time by a Delta aircraft (a narrowbody, sub-200 seater A320 at that) which required Qatar to park in a remote stand and bus its passengers to the terminal for both inbound and outbound passengers.
When I discovered how much disorder it created for both the crews, passengers and most of all, ground staff in Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson Int’l airport, I felt a wave of pity and sadness for those customers and employees. I read about how passengers were held up for hours due to the logistics of transporting luggate to a remote area, how the buses were hot and crowded as they were taken to and from the main building, how the staff worked their hardest to maintain a smile on their faces and carry their duties to their fullest despite the adversity.
Whether or not this was an intentional stunt pulled by Delta, the airport or whether Qatar is to blame for attempting to evade the rules for ground control at ATL is not important. What matters is the fact that people ultimately had to pay the price of such a decision and enough evidence points to the fact that one or both parties played a role in this oversight. Nobody, least of all the people who had to clean up such a mess, deserved that.
The fact remains is that there is too much animosity between the two carriers and plenty of political intentions that could have resulted in such an erroneous outcome. This was an mistake that was completely avoidable and everyone wound up looking foolish.
I looked at pictures of the inaugural flight and noticed that a large concentration of the passenger makeup (as is usual for a MEB3 flight from a U.S. city) was of subcontinent origin. As a child growing up in Dallas, TX, my grandmother, a.k.a. Dadima, would come to Texas as often as possible from Delhi during the summers to watch over us, as my parents worked full time. After suffering a life-altering car accident when I was just two years old, her visits to the U.S. required extensive care since she could not walk long distances without wheelchair assistance. In addition, her visits to the U.S., just to see her grandchildren, required a long layover in Frankfurt, translators onboard her Delhi – Frankfurt and Frankfurt – Dallas legs, and typically, brutally exhaustive interrogations from U.S. immigration officials upon arrival, since she traveled alone (her husband, my grandfather, was killed in the car accident).
In other words, she came to the U.S. every year out of love. My parents could not afford to chaperone her transport to the U.S., much less fly her in business class. Yet, she did so as often as possible just because her heart was in the right place. But she couldn’t do this without assistance. It was a labor of love.
The truth is, there are millions of people like my Dadima. I’ve traveled across oceans and boundaries for all of my life. I remember one time, my family and I were traveling from London to Toronto on Air Canada, and an elderly Indian woman was unable to read the customs and immigration forms and asked my Dad for help. He spoke to her in fluent Punjabi and helped her out. To this day, I’ve helped numerous elderly people whenever I am in the airport. I have communicated to people in Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, whatever it takes to make sure that people can navigate through terminals, around signage, through documentation, across immigration and on People Mover Systems.
I do it because my Dadima probably at one point reached out to someone and asked for such help.
Knowing that there were likely dozens of people like my Dadi on that inaugural flight to Atlanta, I feel nothing but remorse and guilt for the people who decided that the Qatar Airways inaugural flight was better served by a remote stand that afternoon.
Welcome to America! Donald Trump is running for President! Have a sample of what ignorance is like when you don’t play hardball! Your individuality is unimportant, buy-in is everything! We call this, the ‘land of the free!’
This behavior is digusting.
I sincerely hope that this is the end of the Delta vs. Qatar Airways saga.
It is time to bury the hatchet.
Aviation is the one thing that unites humanity. If you were to take a baggage handler from South Africa, Israel, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Cyprus or Vanuatu, and placed them in a group, they would largely realize that they serve the same roles and their day-to-day experiences are the same.
They probably, at one point, have taken a selfie with a plane departing. And, they probably can recount stories about how they had great highs on a work day when they turned around a flight in spite of adverse circumstances, or tougher days when weather issues, mechanical problems or other issues caused a hold up, where goals were not met.
Whatever the case, the relatability is universal. Where they come from, how they got there, what their country stands for, is all irrelevant.
This can be said for Pilots. Flight Attendants. Caterers. Ground Staff. The list goes on.
I can only hope that aviation serves as a channel to unite us. People care about their airlines, airports and aircrafts. Let that pride serve as an example of solidarity.
For the sake of my Dadima, who escaped from Pakistan during the partition, yet retained a love of all People, irrespective of their religion and belief systems, I hope that those who failed this inaugural flight learn to make decisions based on their Hearts.
Not on their egos.