PHOTO: America’s “Big 3” carriers have strong words for Emirates. (photo via Flickr/Aero Pixels)
Just a day after Emirates airlines announced that it was reducing some of its underperforming U.S. routes, America’s “Big 3” carriers had strong words for the airline.
Emirates has said it is cutting back because “recent actions taken by the US government relating to the issuance of entry visas, heightened security vetting and restrictions on electronic devices in aircraft cabins have had a direct impact on consumer interest and demand for air travel into the US.”
It also said it is responding, “as any profit-oriented enterprise would.”
To which, America’s big three are responding with a very public, very vocal, “yeah, right.”
The route cuts are not the issue, but rather the claim that Emirates is a “profit-oriented enterprise.”
“The fact is, market demand has never played a role when the Gulf carriers decide where to fly,” said Jill Zuckman, the chief spokesperson for the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, a lobby that represents the three airlines as well as many of their labor organizations.
“It is well known that the Gulf carriers, including Emirates, lose money on most of their flights to the United States and are propped up by billions of dollars in government cash.”
The big three have been in a contentious battle with Middle East carriers for more than two years, sparring over what they call “trade violations” by Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Specifically, the partnership claims top Middle East carriers Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airlines have received more than $50 billion in government subsidies over the past 12 years.
This, says the partnership, is a clear violation of the Open Skies Agreement and one that could threaten 1.2 million American jobs.
“That Emirates would refer to itself as ‘profit oriented’ is simply laughable,” said Zuckman.
In 2015, Emirates released a statement, “Emirates debunks subsidy and unfair competition allegations,” to refute the partnerships claims.
In a nutshell, the statement boils down to a quote from Sir Tim Clark, Emirates president: “The subsidy allegations put forward by the Big 3 are patently false. We have been profitable for 27 years straight, and unlike our accusers, we have never depended on government bail-outs or protection from competition.”
It seems like the scaling back of flights by the top Gulf carrier would be welcome news to the partnership, especially after it published a statement last week condemning the “sharp increase in Gulf carrier routes.”
“From 2012-2016, Gulf carriers increased capacity at more than six times the growth rate of global GDP, according to aviation economists at Compass Lexecon,” said the statement.
But travel to, from and within in the Middle East is growing. According to a press release from the Arabian Travel Market, the growth rate of passengers in the region has outperformed the rest of the world for the fifth straight year.
Of course, the partnership’s statement also comes at a time when the U.S. aviation industry, thanks in particular to one of the top three carriers, is weathering one of the industry’s worst public relations crises of all times.
And probably not at all coincidentally, during the same week United took a beating for its customer service practices, Emirates was designated the “Best Airline in the World” at the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards. Of the ten carriers to make the best-of list, none of America’s big airlines ranked, although JetBlue and Alaska Airlines clocked in at number four and number nine respectively.
The partnership recently rolled out a six-figure advertising campaign in an effort to enlist public support for its cause.