Last updated: 11:52 AM ET, Mon April 13 2015

U.S. Government Will Investigate Open Skies

Airlines & Airports | American Airlines | Rich Thomaselli | April 13, 2015

U.S. Government Will Investigate Open Skies

The big three U.S. airlines are getting their wish.

The Obama Administration said Friday it will investigate claims made by American, Delta and United airlines that the three major Middle East Gulf carriers receive subsidies from their respective governments that have skewed the marketplace.

The domestic carriers have asked the government to review the Open Skies Agreement after providing the U.S. Transportation, Commerce and State departments with a 55-page report earlier this year that alleges Emirates, Etihad and Qatar airlines have received $42 billion in subsidies over a 10-year period from their respective governments in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

The debate has become contentious between the U.S. airlines and its several union supporters, who claim that American jobs are being lost by the growth of the Gulf carriers, and travel advocates such as the U.S. Travel Association and the Business Travel Coalition, which claim that the Open Skies Agreement has fostered fair competition and that U.S. airlines have also received subsidies from the government.

The Transportation, Commerce and State departments released a joint statement saying "The claims, which are asserted in a publicly available report, are of significant interest to stakeholders and all three federal agencies. The U.S. government takes seriously the concerns raised in the report and is interested in receiving insights and feedback from stakeholders before any decisions are made regarding what action, if any, should be taken."

A public comment, with input from both sides of the argument, will be offered as part of the review process.

Jill Zuckman, chief spokesperson for the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, the lobby group for the three U.S. airlines, was naturally pleased with the U.S. government’s decision.

“This process is an opportunity for more transparency and we urge the Gulf carriers to adhere to the same standards of financial disclosure and accountability as the U.S. carriers,” she said. “Their $42 billion of state support, a clear violation of Open Skies policy, has been well-documented.  They should open their books if they have nothing to hide.”

The U.S. Travel Association and BTC did not issue a statement at time of publication.


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