Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker has accused Delta Air Lines of flying "crap airplanes that are 35 years old".
The CEO was responding to criticism from US carriers — Delta, American and United — that Qatar Airways, Etihad and Emirates have received $42 billion in "unfair" subsidies from their governments since 2004.
Targetting Delta boss Richard Anderson, Al Baker said the money Qatar Airways receives from its government is in the form of "legitimate" equity.
He said: "I think Mr Anderson doesn't know the difference between equity and subsidy. We never receive any subsidy... The state of Qatar is the owner of Qatar Airways and whatever funds are put into the airline is as equity, which is quite legitimate.
"The unfortunate thing is that because they [US airlines] are so inefficient they want to blame us — while we are very efficient — for their failures and drawbacks.
"The issue is that they cannot stand the progress the Gulf carriers are making."
Speaking at an arts conference in Doha, Al Baker added: "I am delighted that Richard Anderson of Delta is not here.
"First of all, we don't fly crap airplanes that are 35 years old. The Qatar Airways average fleet [age] is only four years and one month. We have ultra-modern airplanes.
"We have invested, my country has invested, huge amounts to make sure we are the lowest CO2 contributor in the aviation industry."
Al Baker's comments mirror those made by Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan (see news, March 17). The Australian chief executive praised the open skies agreements around the world as a "model of success" and described it as "ultimately all about consumer choice".