While one Georgia aviation giant is locked in a bitter feud with Qatar Airways, another is lauding the Middle Eastern carrier as an exemplary customer.
Days after Atlanta’s Delta Air Lines Inc. reignited a conflict with Qatar Airways over government subsidies, Savannah-based Gulfstream Aerospace announced it had delivered its first two G500 business jets to the carrier’s executive charter service.
The two G500s, which Qatar Executive picked up at the Savannah headquarters, join five G650ER jets — Gulfstream’s most expensive and longest-range aircraft — that Qatar has already purchased.
The G500 was delivered just four years after the charter service agreed to be its launch partner and committed at the same time to buy 30 aircraft overall — a mix of the G500, G600 and G650ER.
The bonhomie engendered by these deals was evident in Gulfstream’s Dec. 31 press release, which had President Mark Burns calling Qatar Executive a “good partner” and complimenting “His Excellency” Akbar Al Baker — the same outspoken chief executive who started an Atlanta-Doha route to “rub salt in the wounds” of Delta.
Mr. Al Baker returned the favor: “Qatar Executive and Gulfstream share a special and strong relationship, one which has grown over the years based on confidence and mutual understanding. This relationship emphasizes Qatar Executive’s commitment to provide an industry-leading product and service,” read his statement in the Gulfstream release.
With more than 33,000 workers here, Delta is the top private employer in Georgia, likely a key reason both U.S. senators from the state joined nine of their colleagues in requesting that the Trump administration investigate whether Qatar is violating an “understanding” reached with the U.S. government last January.
But Gulfstream also employs more than 10,200 people and is the state’s largest manufacturer, with international clients helping drive a massive order pipeline that keeps its assembly lines busy.
The two major Georgia companies’ divergent relationships with the same overseas firm illustrate the challenge policy makers face in punishing foreign competitors without impacting local jobs.
It’s a tension that has been evident throughout the first two years of President Donald Trump’s “America First” strategy. Tariffs might help some protected industries but could hurt others that would face higher input costs and lost exports due to retaliatory measures by trading partners.
Indeed, Qatar Airways is a customer of another huge American aerospace manufacturer and exporter: Boeing. The airline already has 100 Boeing planes, with another 100 on order.
Boeing has been at the center of high-profile trade disputes over the Export-Import Bank and the trade war with China. Gulfstream, a relatively smaller and more niche player, hasn’t seen as much public discussion.
But China’s 25 percent tariff on business jets affects some of Gulfstream’s larger models, causing some worry that the Georgia company could lose some of its dominant market share in China to French and Canadian rivals Dassault and Bombardier.