Qatar’s national carrier officially launched its Doha-Atlanta route yesterday with much fanfare, including a water salute – but apparently had no gate to park its A380 upon arrival.
Instead, passengers had to take a shuttle from the plane to the terminal – a move that some called “quite embarrassing” for an airline that wanted to show off its new plane.
My spectacular view: @qatarairways @Airbus A380 landing @ATLairport for inaugural flight to Atlanta @wsbtv pic.twitter.com/8Pk3Truyvr
— Aaron Diamant (@AaronDiamantWSB) June 1, 2016
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the airport only has one slot for a jet that size, and it was occupied by a much smaller A320 belonging to rival carrier Delta.
The newspaper said Delta “couldn’t find a viable option to move its aircraft in the time allotted, adding that it would have had to move multiple aircraft to make room for the huge A380.”
It added that Qatar Airways won’t normally fly its largest plane from Doha to Atlanta, but had wanted to make an entrance for the inaugural flight.
Qatar Airways has had an increasingly contentious relationship with Delta, which has a hub at the Atlanta airport.
Previously, CEO Akbar Al Baker said his airline was launching a Doha-Atlanta route to “rub salt in the wounds” of its American rival.
And Delta executives have said their research suggests that only five people a day would fly between the two cities.
Tensions grew worse last month after Qatar Airways held a launch party at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, a venue sponsored in part by Delta.
In response, the US carrier said it would end its 20-year support for the theater because of the event.
Delta and other American airlines have said Gulf carriers include Qatar Airways benefit from government subsidies, giving them an unfair advantage.
They have called on the US government to curb landing rights for the carriers, but no such action has been taken yet.