Singer Jennifer Lopez — aka JLo — has been drawn into the ongoing feud between three U.S.-based airlines and three Middle Eastern carriers.
Delta, United and American airlines have accused Qatar, Etihad and Emirates of competing unfairly by accepting subsidies from their oil-rich owners, the nations of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The U.S. carriers have urged the federal government to investigate the charges, which Qatar, Etihad and Emirates reject.
Qatar and fellow Gulf carriers Emirates and Etihad Airways PJSC are supported by loan guarantees, interest-free loans, capital injections and assumptions of fuel-hedge losses from their respective governments, according to U.S. airlines. The total tab: $42 billion in subsidies and other benefits, the U.S. carriers have said.
The Middle Eastern airlines have denied getting such subsidies and said their U.S. rivals benefited from government handouts through bankruptcy protection.
Lopez, a former judge on the popular television series “American Idol,” was pulled into the feud last week when she performed at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre to celebrate the launch of a new Qatar route from Atlanta to Doha, the capital of Qatar.
The Assn. of Flight Attendants, which has aligned with Delta, United and American, wrote Lopez urging her to cancel her performance, saying the nation of Qatar has a poor human rights record and jails its citizens for being gay or transgender.
Despite a small protest outside the theater, Lopez’s performance went as scheduled.
Meanwhile, Delta said it would end its 20-year-long sponsorship of the Fox Theatre when its current contract ends next year because the theater hosted the event with “an airline proven to engage in business practices that harm U.S. aviation jobs and violate basic human rights.”
The Fox Theatre issued a statement saying it needs the revenue from events like the Lopez performance to keep its doors open.
“As we are not in tune with the industry politics of our sponsors, we are disheartened to learn that Delta has chosen to penalize the Fox Theatre for our decision to rent the venue to another airline,” the statement said.
Qatar’s daily Atlanta-to-Doha flight makes its debut June 1 with the world’s biggest passenger jet, Airbus Group SE’s superjumbo A380. Qatar typically equips its A380s with 517 seats, according to aviation information website Seatguru.com. After the initial flight, the route will use Boeing Co. 777-200LRs, on which Qatar usually has 259 seats. Qatar also is expanding in Europe, saying Tuesday that it had increased its stake in British Airways owner IAG SA.
Hiring an A-lister to headline a swanky launch party isn’t unusual for Qatar; it enlisted Mariah Carey for a January fete in Los Angeles and Virgin America lined up Canadian rapper Drake for the debut or its Toronto flights. Lopez, a music and movie superstar with the lead role in NBC’s “Shade of Blue” detective drama, gave a private performance Monday for NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, a Spanish-language media company.