Qatar Airways chief accuses US carriers of ‘bullying’

File photo shows an interior view of the Business Class seats on the second floor deck of an Airbus A380 of Qatar Airways. (AP)
Updated 24 April 2017

Qatar Airways chief accuses US carriers of ‘bullying’

DUBAI: The chief of Qatar Airways on Monday accused American carriers complaining over alleged subsidies to Gulf airlines of “bullying,” as he announced new US routes in defiance of mounting airport restrictions.
US carriers Delta, United and American Airlines have accused Qatar Airways along with Dubai’s Emirates and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad of benefitting from government subsidies to expand their transcontinental networks.
They have urged US President Donald Trump to take action against the Gulf airlines, who deny any form of subsidy.
Speaking to reporters at the annual Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, Qatar Airways chief Akbar Al-Baker said he didn’t expect any action from Washington.
“President Trump is a wise individual and a very good businessman, and I don’t think he will buy into bullying by the three American carriers,” Baker said.
Qatar Airways was among the airlines affected by the ban imposed last month on electronic devices larger than a smartphone on flights to the United States from 10 airports in the Middle East and Turkey.
Baker, whose carrier is offering free laptops to premium passengers in response to the ban, said Qatar Airways has faced some drop in business to US destinations.
“There was some decline. Something manageable. We did not have massive declines,” he said.
“We still have robust business in the United States... and we will continue our expansion,” he added.
Baker announced San Fransisco as a new route to be added to its 10 US destinations early next year. A route to Las Vegas will be launched in the second quarter of 2018, he said.
Emirates, the Middle East’s largest carrier, said last week it was reducing flights to the United States in response to “weakened travel demand.”
The US ban went into effect on March 25 on nine airlines in Turkey, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
Britain followed with a similar ban from five countries from the Middle East, northern Africa and Turkey.
The fast-growing Gulf carriers have turned their home airports into major hubs for international travelers, capturing a sizable chunk of travel between the West and Asia and Australasia.


Ex-housekeeper sues Israeli PM’s wife over abusive behavior

Updated 6 min 28 sec ago

Ex-housekeeper sues Israeli PM’s wife over abusive behavior

  • Last year, Sara Netanyahu was convicted of misusing state funds

JERUSALEM: A former housekeeper at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence is suing the leader’s wife Sara for pain and suffering allegedly caused during her employment there, the housekeeper’s attorney said on Thursday.

Opheer Shimson says his client is demanding $190,000 in damages for the abuse from Sara Netanyahu. He said the woman, an immigrant from France in her mid-50s and a mother of five who wished to keep her identity secret, worked at the residence for five months until last November, when she was injured from a fall caused by what he described as Sara Netanyahu’s tyrannical demands.

He said the woman, a staunch supporter of the prime minister, kept a diary detailing the verbal abuse she endured from his wife.

“She adores the prime minister and saw her work at his home as a form of national service,” Shimson told The Associated Press. “But she’s been traumatized by her experience. Everyone knew what was going on there, and no one can say otherwise.”

Sara Netanyahu has been accused of abusive behavior toward her personal staff before. This, together with accusations of excessive spending and using public money on her own extravagant personal tastes, has earned her an image as the Israeli Imelda Marcos, the Philippines’ former first lady who became infamous for her massive collection of designer shoes.

Last year, Sara Netanyahu was convicted of misusing state funds after she reached a plea bargain settling allegations that she overspent some $100,000 of state money on lavish meals. She’d previously been indicted for graft, fraud and breach of trust.

In 2016, a court ruled the prime minister’s wife mistreated a housekeeper and awarded the man $42,000 in damages. Several other employees have accused her of abuse, mistreatment and harassment. Another pending lawsuit alleges she forbade a former staffer to eat or drink on the job and required her to change her clothes dozens of times a day. The plaintiff, who is also seeking damages, says Sara Netanyahu also required her to wash her hands dozens of times a day and dry them with a towel separate from the one used by the Netanyahu family.

The Netanyahus have angrily rejected all the charges, calling them part of a media-orchestrated campaign against the family to oust them from power.

Israel heads to the polls next week for its third election in less than a year. Two weeks later, Benjamin Netanyahu goes on trial for charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust stemming from accusations he accepted lavish gifts from billionaire friends and promised to promote advantageous legislation for a major newspaper in exchange for favorable coverage.

The latest allegations against Sara Netanyahu include details on a bevy of berating comments she unleashed on those who worked for her. Shimson said the personal diary would be presented in court as evidence.

“Enough, save me, I want to die, the problem is that I don’t have any choice and everyone knows that,” reads one of his client’s entries, which was first published on Israel’s Channel 12 news. ”It’s impossible to live every day with a psychopath. I’m dying to leave before it’s too late.”

In another entry, she said Sara Netanyahu screamed at her for forgetting to throw out the garbage, called her stupid and dirty and demanded she take a shower. The woman wrote that Sara Netanyahu accused her of trying to cause friction with the prime minister.

“She said to me: ‘What do you want? For me to be like you, divorced?’” she wrote. “Even the prime minister told her to stop. She was in a trance. In the afternoon she had a fit, lay down on the ground, screamed and screamed like a lunatic, and shook with rage. She rolled around on the floor, and said that all of that was because of me.”

The ruling Likud Party denounced the TV report about the lawsuit as a “cruel, false, recycled and gossipy piece that was timed for release on the eve of elections and whose purpose was to harm the Likud.”