I'd rather thought the insult was the currency of our times.

Once Twitter was created you either had a positive insult balance or a negative insult balance.

It seems, though, that an airline has gone too far in disrespecting the man some regard as the apogee of insult, Donald Trump.

And Delta,  United and American Airlines aren't having it.

They've penned a strong statement condemning the alleged disrespect of our president.

What, though, that these airlines' rival done? 

Well, this is all about Qatar Airways and its investment in Air Italy.

The so-called Big Three have been complaining that Qatar Airways is government subsidized and is trying to find any way possible to invade American skies.

Now it's invested in Air Italy, which last week announced it would start direct flights from Milan to L.A. and San Francisco.

This, said the U.S. airlines, constituted an invasion.

Their lobbying group, the exquisitely named Partnership for Open and Fair Skies -- which some prefer Cabal to Stop Foreigners Flying Their Planes Around Our Skies -- immediately offered a protest, as reported by One Mile At a Time

With the announcement of new routes from Air Italy to the U.S., fueled by money from Qatar Airways, the government of Qatar has demonstrated a stunning lack of respect for President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo.

A stunning lack of respect? We can't have that, can we?

What, though, is this disrespect based upon? According to POFS: 

When the Trump administration negotiated an agreement with Qatar earlier this year to protect American jobs and restore fair competition to international aviation, the Qatari government agreed that its state-owned airline would not launch future 'fifth freedom' flights to the U.S.

Oh Lordy. We're going all trade-y again.

No, I'm not going to disappear too deeply into the detail of fifth freedom flights -- in essence, the right to carry passengers from one's own country to a second country, and from that country to a third country -- and who might even be correct. (I rarely think anyone is in such things.)

I'm not even going to make the rather obvious point that none of these U.S. airlines actually fly the routes Air Italy is launching.

What's more moving to me is the mere thought that America's most powerful airlines are using Hey, you! You just insulted my president! as a business tactic.

I can imagine, for example, the British claiming that some foreign business had insulted their Queen. I can only imagine they'd claim it if the foreign business had featured a Queen-lookalike naked in an ad.

When the British allowed a Donald Trump balloon to float over London during a Trump visit, however, I didn't hear U.S. airlines proclaiming this was a besmirchment of the fair skies.

Here, though, airlines like Delta are standing up to defend the president, not knowing whether he feels he's been insulted.

And it's not as if these three airlines don't slip on their bathing suits and jump into the jacuzzi with foreign governments on occasion.

One Mile at a Time acutely points out that Delta, for example, happens to be a substantial investor in China Eastern Airlines. Which happens to be owned by the Chinese government. 

Is there a technical term for that? Limited Freedom Investment, perhaps.

In general, I'd counsel all businesses not to accuse others of insulting their political leaders. 

After all, in a few months or years that argument might seem myopic or even risible.

We might be living in different times, with different principles coming to the fore. Insults might be frowned upon.

More than that, however, is that the U.S. Government has been extremely protective of these three airlines' commercial interests. 

Surely it would be better to wait for the president himself to proclaim his offense, rather than to rush to his defense, without knowing if he's truly bothered. 

Life is all about deals, isn't it? 

Best to wait to see how big of a deal something is, before reaching for the nuclear argument.

Published on: Dec 9, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.