PHOTO: Some members of Congress are calling on the President to outright bar a new international flight set to begin March 12. (photo courtesy of Thinkstock)
Earlier this year, when Emirates Airline announced a new route between Newark Liberty International and Athens, Greece, it was another thorn in the side of proponents of American’s Open Skies Agreement with the governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Today, 25 members of Congress from New York and New Jersey sent a bi-partisan letter to President Trump asking him to stop the route before it begins on Sunday, March 12.
The Congressional delegation side with the big three U.S. airlines—American, Delta and United—who claim their Middle East Gulf counterparts are accepting government subsidies and violating the agreements.
The idea of subsidy-based airlines altering the marketplace was presented to then-President Obama more than two years ago. His administration failed to produce any action and it now falls to Trump to make that decision.
"Foreign governments that violate their agreements with the United States need to be held accountable," the letter said in part. "Like you, we believe that our trade agreements must be enforced so that foreign governments understand that they can't break the rules."
Jill Zuckman, chief spokesperson for the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, a lobby group for the big three U.S. airlines, issued a statement.
“The Partnership is grateful that these leaders are willing to stand up and fight for the hundreds of thousands of American jobs at risk from the Gulf carriers' cheating. They know that their constituents depend on the free and fair competition that allows the $1.5 trillion aviation industry to function,” said Zuckman in a statement.
“President Trump has made it clear he intends to crack down on trade cheaters who violate our international agreements. We hope he will side with Congress and bar the new Emirates flight to send a message that the Trump administration will not tolerate rule-breaking that costs American jobs."
READ MORE: Business Travel Coalition Pens Letter To Trump
Here is the full context of the letter.
“President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
For more than two years, U.S. international airlines and their American workers have raised concerns about unfair competition from subsidized, state-owned airlines in Qatar and the UAE. Unfortunately, the governments of both countries and the airlines in question – Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, and Emirates Airline – rebuffed the Obama Administration’s efforts to address the issue, choosing instead to increase their subsidies and continue pushing U.S. airlines off international routes. Emirates Airline took the latest step on the third day of your presidency, when it announced that it will begin flying roundtrip between Athens, Greece and Newark, New Jersey this month. While we support expanding flight options and greater connectivity, we do not support subsidy-enabled flights that cost American jobs and could violate U.S. trade agreements.
Like you, we believe that our trade agreements must be enforced so that foreign governments understand that they can't break the rules. The Gulf carriers have used more than $50 billion in subsidies to expand their services at rates that far outpace market demand, which violates the spirit of the Open Skies agreements with the United States. We ask that you take firm action against these subsidies.
The U.S. aviation industry contributes more than 5% to our GDP and plays a critical role in our national security. Subsidized competition will result in the loss of good middle-class jobs. For every long-haul route lost or foregone as a result of subsidized Gulf carrier competition, more than 1,500 American jobs are lost. Erosion of U.S. airline capacity will also negatively impact the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) program, likely resulting in logistical issues for the Department of Defense as their ability to position military assets around the world in the safest and most efficient manner available is compromised.
Prior to your election, nearly 300 bipartisan members of Congress voiced our concern with the subsidies these airlines receive. It is imperative that your Administration take quick and decisive action to defend U.S. interests abroad and ensure that U.S. airlines and their American workers have a fair and equal opportunity to compete. Further, it would be prudent for your Administration to bar the commencement of the Athens to Newark flight until it has had the opportunity to negotiate a meaningful resolution which addresses the ongoing subsidies provided by the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to their flagged carriers. Thank you and we look forward to working with you on this important matter.”