Last updated: 01:54 PM ET, Thu May 21 2015

Dutch Government Freezes Gulf Carrier Routes

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | May 21, 2015

Dutch Government Freezes Gulf Carrier Routes

What the U.S. government has yet to address regarding the Open Skies Agreement with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, the Netherlands just did.

Aviation Daily reports that the Dutch government has frozen traffic rights to Etihad, Emirates and Qatar airlines between the two countries, citing the age-old mantra that demand does not equal supply.

The three Persian Gulf carriers have been alleged by the big three U.S. airlines (American, Delta and United) to have taken $42 billion in government subsidies between 2004 and 2014. Qatar Airlines CEO Akbar al Baker said earlier this month that his airline does not take subsidies from the government, calling it “equity” from an equity partner since the government owns the carrier.

Nonetheless, the debate over the spirit of the Open Skies Agreement has reached Europe, with France and Germany having already asked the European Union Commission to look into the matter.

Dutch Secretary of Transport Wilma Mansveld decided that two widebody flights a day from Dubai to Amsterdam does not correspond to actual market demand and has frozen Emirates at one daily flight. She similarly froze Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, according to Aviation Daily.

“The government of the Netherlands wisely recognizes the severity of these subsidies, which is a violation of Open Skies policy,” Jill Zuckman, chief spokesperson for the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, said in a statement. The Partnership is the lobby group for American, Delta and United, as well as dozens of aviation unions, businesses and chambers of commerce. “Now, it is imperative that the U.S. government request consultations with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar and ask for a freeze on additional flights to the U.S. until a fair resolution can be worked out.”

The Obama administration has said it expects to decide whether to open consultations with Qatar and the UAE by the end of the month.

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