Qatar Airways invests in JetBlue-backed private jet company JetSuite after American Airlines rebuff

Key Points
  • Qatar Airways has taken a minority stake in private jet company JetSuite.
  • The airline had wanted to buy a large stake in American Airlines but dropped the plan.
  • Qatar has snatched up stakes in a host of other international airlines.
A Qatar Airways Boeing 777 In New York.
Leslie Josephs | CNBC

Less than a year after it said it wanted to buy as much as 10 percent of American Airlines, the world's biggest carrier, Qatar Airways is thinking very small.

The Doha-based carrier has taken a minority stake in JetBlue-backed private jet company JetSuite Inc., Qatar Airways said Tuesday. JetBlue is also increasing its investment in the private jet company, JetSuite said.

Legacy U.S. airlines have long-alleged that Qatar Airways and two other Middle East carriers—Emirates and Etihad—receive illegal state subsidies that have created an unfair playing field. Qatar Airways disclosed its surprise interest in American Airlines last June. American's CEO, Doug Parker, called it "puzzling."

"We aren't particularly excited about Qatar's outreach," Parker said at the time.

Qatar Airways later dropped the plan. The Trump administration has stepped into the fray and Qatar agreed earlier this year to disclose its financial information to try to smooth its relationship with the U.S.

The JetSuite investment is a new tack for Qatar Airways, which has snapped up stakes in a host of foreign carriers, including Cathay Pacific and LATAM. JetSuite operates private jets, and its sister company JetSuite X offers scheduled charter flights on 30-seat aircraft on the West Coast.

JetBlue, which took a stake in JetSuite in 2016, has partnerships with the Gulf carriers, including Qatar Airways, that its large U.S. rivals have complained about. JetSuite is planning to move to the Dallas-Fort Worth area over the summer.

Alex Wilcox, JetSuite's CEO, declined to provide the size of the investment but called it "substantial" and said it would help the company expand.