Delta Air Lines has issued an apology for a comment made by chief executive Richard Anderson during a CNN interview focused on US airlines' clash with Gulf rivals over subsidies and open skies.

In an exchange with network anchor Richard Quest, Anderson sought to counter the point that US airlines had benefited from huge government subsidies after the 9/11 terrorist attacks by citing "the great irony" that the terrorists originated from the same region as the Gulf carriers.

Delta says Anderson "didn't mean to suggest the Gulf carriers or their governments are linked to the 9/11 terrorists", and adds: "We apologise if anyone was offended."

The Altanta-based carrier goes on to offer an explanation of the point Anderson was making. "Emirates, Qatar and Etihad have long tried to defend their government subsidies by characterising the 9/11 payments and Chapter 11 bankruptcy as subsidies," it says. "This couldn't be further from the truth. The first was a one-time payment to US airlines in the aftermath of the US airspace closure after 9/11. Delta didn't receive loan guarantees.

"The post-9/11 shutdown and its aftermath resulted in the loss of tens of thousands airline jobs and billions of dollars in debt and equity for investors. The bankruptcy proceedings that followed involved a completely transparent process with no government funding."

Emirates has rejected Delta's apology. "We believe that the statements made this week by Mr Anderson were deliberately crafted and delivered for specific effect," says the Dubai-based airline. "This brings into question his credibility as a CEO of a US public listed company, as well as the integrity of the submission which his airline has submitted to the US authorities."

Source: Cirium Dashboard