The CEO of Qatar Airways has come out mocking the U.S. government's controversial electronics ban, in an interview published in CNNMoney Monday.
"I didn't think this ban was necessary at all," Akbar Al Baker told CNNMoney. "People who want to disrupt aviation will do it from other places where there is no ban."
He went on to point fingers at U.S. President Donald Trump for the decision, adding a hint of humor.
"If [Trump] continues this way, at the end of the day you will have people sitting in the airplane with underwear and nothing [else] on them," Baker said.
Qatar Airways has seen a drop in bookings due to the ban
Baker admitted that his airline has already seen a drop in bookings since the policy was implemented.
"Yes, we have had a drop in passengers but it's a manageable drop and people have started to realize that there are other ways to use laptops," he said, adding that the drop was less than 10 per flight.
The "laptop ban" targets direct flights to the U.S. from nine Middle East and North African airlines. Electronic devices larger than a mobile phone can no longer be carried onto the plane. Instead, they must be packed in the passenger's checked luggage.
Although the U.S. used "security concerns" as the reason for the ban, many have accused the Trump administration of targeting Gulf airlines – specifically Etihad Airways, Emirates and Qatar Airways – in an effort to support American carriers. The United Kingdom also issued a similar ban, but Gulf carriers were not included.
American carriers feel threatened by Gulf competition
While the three big Gulf airlines have seen immense growth and soaring profits in recent years, American carriers have struggled to compete. As they have all expanded their global networks, they have begun flying to many U.S. cities as well.
U.S. airlines feel threatened by the competition. Not only are these airlines entering their markets, they also offer significantly superior quality and service. Year to year, the three Gulf carriers dominate the top spots on global rankings of airlines, while their American competitors lag far behind.
As a result, the U.S. airlines have gone on the offensive, and have accused the Gulf carriers of benefiting unfairly from some $42 billion in subsidies from their respective governments. They say this violates the international Open Skies Agreement.
Etihad Airways responded in 2015, pointing out that the U.S. airlines have received more than $70 billion in subsidies from their government as well. It wasn't so much criticizing the fact, just pointing out the hypocrisy.
It's no secret that the three American carriers are lobbying Trump's administration to take a stand against their Gulf competitors. A spokesperson for the three U.S. airlines confirmed this in a statement, according to Business Insider.
Qatar Airways and Emirates don't believe they are being targeted by the electronics ban
While the Gulf airlines have all criticized the efforts of American carriers to lobby against their expansion, the heads of Qatar Airways and Emirates have both said they don't believe the electronics ban is a direct attack from the U.S. government.
"I don't think it is fair for me to say it is targeting Gulf airlines," Baker told reporters last month.
The President of Emirates Tim Clark shared similar sentiments in an interview with CNNMoney. Although he strongly criticized the ban, calling it "hugely disruptive", he said he didn't believe it was intended as an attack on his or other airlines.
"The U.S. government has clear evidence of something going on otherwise they won't be doing what they are doing and we must trust their judgment and comply," he said.