Last updated: 09:27 AM ET, Wed February 03 2016

Emirates Airlines Fires Back at New Open Skies Report

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | February 01, 2016

Emirates Airlines Fires Back at New Open Skies Report

Emirates Airlines has disputed a new report from the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies – the lobby group for American, Delta and United airlines – which claims that Middle East Gulf carriers are undercutting U.S. airlines and costing American jobs by expanding into American markets.

"It is astounding how the Big 3 relentlessly churn out misleading data to support their pleas for protection against competition, completely disregarding consumer choice and the broader economy,” Emirates said in an e-mailed statement to Khaleej Times via eturbonews. “It is also avaricious, especially considering the Big 3's record profitability, size, and their massive advantage from operating in a protected home market with anti-trust immunity for their (joint ventures)."

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Last week, the Partnership said economists from Compass Lexecon reviewed booking data in three cities that the Gulf carriers serve. The data shows that following the most recent entry by a Gulf carrier into a market, passenger bookings for international itineraries on U.S. carriers and their joint venture partners declined an average of 13.3 percent in Orlando, 13.1 percent in San Francisco and 8.8 percent in Chicago.

The three biggest U.S. carriers claim that the three Gulf airlines — Emirates, Etihad and Qatar — skew the international marketplace because they are heavily subsidized by their respective governments.

“In Orlando, San Francisco and Chicago, the governments of the UAE and Qatar are using billions of dollars from their treasuries to take away business from U.S. airlines and harm American jobs,” Jill Zuckman, chief spokesperson for the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, said in a statement. “Until the U.S. government steps up and addresses the massive subsidies, the unprecedented growth by the Gulf carriers will only continue, causing great harm to the U.S. aviation industry, American workers and critical airline service that communities across the country rely on.”

Not true, Emirates says. Or at least, a half-truth.

The data disregards the fact that overall bookings grew with the start of Gulf carrier services into Orlando, San Francisco and Chicago.

"At Orlando for instance, overall flight bookings to the Middle East, West Asia and Southeast Asia during September to December 2015 (the regions and time period cited by the partnership), compared with the same period in 2014 before Emirates' entry into the market, increased 74 per cent from an average of 232 to 409 bookings per day," Emirates said in its statement.

READ MORE: USTA Study Shows Open Skies is Crucial to US Airlines, Economy

Emirates also said the big three U.S. carriers are being disingenuous in saying they are hurt by Gulf airlines when the Gulf carriers do not have rights to lucrative U.S. domestic markets, which has led to record profits at American, Delta and United.

"Contrary to the partnership's allegations that Emirates is 'costing American jobs,' we have helped create and support U.S. jobs through our flight services and our investment in U.S. aerospace products,” Emirates said in its statement. “Aviation experts Campbell-Hill Aviation Group have analyzed the U.S. jobs effect of Emirates' flights to the United States, and found that Emirates supports 3,975 U.S. jobs per daily round-trip service."

The Obama administration is still considering whether to reopen negotiations between the U.S. and the governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates over Open Skies agreements.


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