American, Delta, United Accuse U.S. Government Of Violating Law
PHOTO: Did JetBlue and codeshare partner Emirates Airlines circumvent the Fly America Act? (Courtesy Emirates Airlines)
The Partnership for Open & Fair Skies – the lobby group for American, Delta and United airlines in their fight against three Mideast Gulf carriers – has accused the U.S. government of violating a law against taxpayer-funded air travel for government employees.
Specifically, the Partnership alleges that the Fly America Act was bridged by the General Services Administration (GSA) in the wake of a contract awarded to Emirates Airlines to carry government employees from New York to Milan for business.
Technically, the contract was awarded to New York-based JetBlue Airways. But Emirates originally applied for the contract under its codeshare agreement, and Emirates will operate the flights with its own branded aircraft since JetBlue does not have long-haul capability with its fleet.
“It is absurd that while the U.S. government is actively making the case against the subsidization of the Gulf carriers to the U.A.E. and Qatar, the GSA is simultaneously giving Emirates a competitive edge over the U.S. carriers and their hundreds of thousands of American workers for the second time in less than a year,” Jill Zuckman, Chief Spokesperson for the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, said in a statement. “This decision blatantly violates Congress’ intent under the Fly America Act. We urge the Obama Administration to scrap this decision and stop undercutting U.S. airlines and American workers.”
Zuckman noted that Congress passed the Fly America Act to ensure all air travel funded by the U.S. government and American taxpayers would take place on U.S. carriers and flights operated by American workers.
This is the second time in less than a year that the GSA has granted a Fly America route to Emirates, following a similar decision in December for flights between Washington, D.C. and Dubai. Prior to these decisions, American Airlines held the contract for the New York-Milan route and United Airlines provided the Washington Dulles-Dubai service.
But United, which along with American and Delta has accused Emirates, Etihad and Qatar airlines of accepting more than $50 billion in government subsidies over the last 15 years, voluntarily discontinued its route between Washington Dulles and Dubai.
In response, Delta Air Lines sent a letter voicing concern about the U.S. government's decision and is asking it to reconsider. “Emirates is not just a foreign air carrier, it is a state-owned Gulf carrier that exploits an improper advantage over U.S. flag carriers by receiving massive subsidies from its home government,” Peter Carter, Delta Air Lines’ chief legal officer, wrote. “This appears to be a glaring contravention of the Fly America Act’s vision of ‘help[ing to] improve the economic and competitive position of U.S.-flag carriers.’ ”
The U.S. State Department in July met with government representatives from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to discuss concerns of the Big Three U.S. carriers that the Gulf airlines are violating the spirit of the Open Skies Agreements and altering the international travel marketplace.
Nothing has yet to emerge from the Obama administration from those meetings.
For more Airlines & Airports News
More by Rich Thomaselli
Get Travel Deals and Travel News
Recent Travel Opinions