Eleven US Senators have raised concerns with the Trump administration about Qatar Airways (QR, Doha Hamad Int'l) and the nature of its relationship with Air Italy (IG, Milan Malpensa).

According to US Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a letter has been sent to the US Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross raising concerns that the Qatari government may be violating its Open Skies agreement with the United States. The letter was signed by Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas), John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), David Perdue (R-Georgia), Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota), Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), James Risch (R-Idaho), and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

In the letter, the senators collectively accused Qatar Airways of using Air Italy, in which it has a 49% stake, to dump capacity in the Italy-US market. In particular, they singled out comments made by the Qatari carrier's chief executive, Akbar al Baker, in which he pledged to ramp up Air Italy's fleet with B777s and A350s in addition to the previously announced B737-8s and B787s.

"Since its relaunch, Air Italy has refocused its network and has begun offering new daily non-stop services between Milan Malpensa and New York JFK and four weekly services between Milan and Miami Int'l. Air Italy's new daily non-stop service between Milan and New York is commercially questionable given that the route is already served with daily non-stop service by five other carriers (United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Alitalia, and Emirates.) Air Italy's entry into this crowded market appears consistent with Qatar Airways pattern of adding subsidized capacity in markets where demand is already well-served," the letter said. "Without funding from Qatar Airways, Air Italy would be unable to launch its new service, just as Qatar Airways would not be viable without direct support from the Qatari government."

The senators claimed that this alleged dumping of capacity in the Italy-US market violated the spirit of an agreement reached between the US and Qatari governments earlier this year wherein the latter had pledged to ensure greater financial transparency at Qatar Airways. In addition, the airline, as with carriers from the United Emirates (UAE), had also committed not to conduct any additional "Fifth Freedom" flights to the United States.

"Therefore, we would respectfully appreciate further examination and a response regarding how these recent developments comport with the Qatari Government's January 2018 commitments to the United States, and the Trump Administration's commitment to ensuring a level playing field for airline workers in the United States."

Last month, al Baker threatened to pull out of Oneworld on the grounds that fellow alliance member American Airlines had been spreading misinformation in Washington about Qatar Airways' plans for Air Italy.