One of the most colourful protaganists in the fierce open skies row between American and Gulf airlines will bow out of the aviation industry’s front lines in the hope of a quieter life with his fishing gear.
Delta Air Lines said on Wednesday that Richard Anderson will step down as chief executive in May. In a memo to employees, he said he planned to spend more time with his wife, Sue, and go fishing near where he was raised in Texas.
“I have no particular plans other than to spend a lot of time with Sue, and finally learn to wade fish in Galveston Bay,” he said.
Mr Anderson has been one of the most vocal critics of Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways over the past 12 months as Delta, American Airlines and United waged a public campaign to curb their expansion into the United States. America’s Big Three alleged unfair practices by their Gulf rivals in breach of open skies agreements.
The Gulf airlines deny the allegations and claim they are being targeted because the US carriers cannot compete with their superior levels of service.
Mr Anderson, in an interview last February, during the initial period of escalating tensions, linked the Gulf airlines to the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and their subsequent impact on the US aviation sector. He later apologised but the remarks cranked up the spat of claims and counter-claims of unfair government support from both sides.
Mr Anderson also took a position opposite the plane maker Boeing in the debate over whether Congress should reauthorise the US Export-Import Bank, saying it amounted to a subsidy of foreign airlines.
So far, Mr Anderson and his colleagues’ appeals for US government intervention to block the allocation of increased capacity to their Gulf rivals has failed to materialise. In the past year, Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways have all added new destinations and seat capacity into the US by putting larger aircraft such as the A380 on key routes between the Gulf and America.
Mr Anderson will become executive chairman after stepping down as CEO and his long-time second-in-command, Ed Bastian, will move into the top role.
* With additional reporting by agencies
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