Last updated: 12:53 PM ET, Tue August 04 2015

Both Sides Claim Open Skies Victory

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | August 04, 2015

Both Sides Claim Open Skies Victory

As the docket for comments on Open Skies regulations came to a close on Monday, both sides are claiming victory in the court of public opinion.

The Partnership for Open and Fair Skies – the umbrella group for American, United and Delta airlines – said that nearly 2,000 out of 3,000 total comments made during the public comment period on Open Skies were in favor of the government opening consultations with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates over alleged subsidies for Persian Gulf airlines.

The Business Travel Coalition, however, said results from a recent survey show travel professionals back the current Open Skies policy to the tune of a whopping 97.6 percent – 90.2 percent of whom said the U.S. government should not give in to U.S. airlines’ demands that foreign airline expansion into the U.S. be stopped.

“These results should enlighten the U.S. Departments of Transportation, State and Commerce. Travel industry professionals uniquely realize the significant benefits for them and the travelers and organizations that they provide travel services to that are generated from U.S. Open Skies policy,” said Kevin Mitchell, and Business Travel Coalition founder. “What’s more, these industry professionals see straight through the U.S. airlines’ allegations of unfair Gulf carrier competition as nothing more than blatant commercial protectionism.”

According to the survey, a majority of survey participants (86.2 percent) agrees that U.S. airlines need more competition from foreign airlines (60.05 percent strongly agree; 26.19 percent somewhat agree). Some 19.1 percent agrees major U.S. airlines are focused on the best interests of consumers (2.38 percent strongly agree; 16.67 percent somewhat agree). And 76.2 percent agree Gulf airlines are focused on the best interests of consumers (30.95 percent strongly agree; 45.24 percent somewhat agree).

The public comments made to the U.S. Departments of State, Commerce and Trade came from pilots, flight attendants, mayors, governors, prominent aviation economists, business leaders, and members of Congress, among others.

“We are overwhelmed by the strong chorus of voices calling on the Obama Administration to address the more than $42 billion in unprecedented subsidies that are keeping the Gulf airlines afloat and harming American aviation jobs,” said Jill Zuckman, chief spokesperson for the Partnership for Open and Fair Skies, which represents the U.S. carriers, their workers and unions. “Now that the docket is officially closed, it is time for the Administration to take immediate action and stand up for our workers being harmed by the Gulf carriers."

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