Last updated: 09:38 AM ET, Fri March 27 2015

Airline Unions Question USTA Support of Gulf Carriers

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | March 27, 2015

Airline Unions Question USTA Support of Gulf Carriers

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Four airline unions fired off a terse letter to the U.S. Travel Association on Thursday, asking why it would support Middle East Gulf carriers who allegedly practice questionable labor policies.

The union presidents of the Association of Flight Attendants; the Association of Professional Flight Attendants; the Communications Workers of America; and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters sent a joint letter to the U.S. Travel Association Board questioning their continued support for Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates Airlines in their battle against U.S. carriers.

Domestic airlines say the Gulf carriers have unfair advantages over their U.S. counterparts when it comes to international routes, alleging in a 55-page report that Qatar, Etihad and Emirates have received a combined $42 billion in subsidies from their respective governments since 2004.

But this letter takes it a step further.

The unions say the Gulf carriers require their female employees to obtain permission before getting married or pregnant and ban lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from employment. The union presidents asked whether the U.S. Travel Association’s top-tier board members – who come from American Express, Google Travel, Hyatt Hotels and Disney Destinations, among others – support these policies.

Here’s the full text of the letter:

March 26, 2015
To: Board of Directors, U.S. Travel Association

In recent weeks, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow has ardently defended Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates despite overwhelming evidence that they are receiving massive subsidies from their governments in violation of Open Skies agreements.

Mr. Dow is defending companies with abhorrent labor standards. Employees of these airlines aren’t granted fundamental human rights that are enjoyed by most workers in today’s world. Mr. Dow is standing up for companies that demand female employees obtain permission before getting married or pregnant. And he is defending companies that bar lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from employment. In addition to gender and sexual orientation discrimination, the Gulf carriers have imposed archaic weight and appearance standards on their employees.

Furthermore, the Gulf States ban unions and employees of the Gulf carriers have no recourse or rights in the case of a dispute with their employers. In fact, any association that the government deems as a threat to the public interest can be abolished in Qatar. Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates prohibits employees from joining unions or taking part in political organizations.

American carriers and unions overcame practices like these decades ago. Supporting Gulf carriers today returns us to a deplorable time in our industry's history.

We are writing to you, a member of the board of directors of the U.S. Travel Association, to ask two simple questions: Do you support these labor standards? Do you want to associate your name and your company's reputation with such repugnant practices?

We urge you to allow the Open Skies agreements to work as intended – by supporting government to government consultations to resolve the subsidies’ issue and restore fair competition to the aviation marketplace. We appreciate the U.S. Travel Association’s role in promoting tourism in the United States, and hope that the Association will stop backing the repressive policies of the Gulf carriers and the governments that support them.


Sara Nelson, International President, Association of Flight Attendants
Laura Glading, President, Association of Professional Flight Attendants
Larry Cohen, President, Communications Workers of America
James P. Hoffa, General President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters

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