With Open Skies Decision Looming, Airlines Ramp Up Pressure
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
With the decision by the Obama Administration looming whether to re-open consultation with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates over the Open Skies Agreements, the lobby group for the big three U.S. airlines turned up the campaigning a notch with a slick new video.
The Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, the umbrella organization representing American, Delta and United airlines, as well as a host of unions and chambers of commerce, released a new video Thursday featuring airline employees urging President Obama to act swiftly to address the alleged Gulf carrier subsidies.
The U.S. claims its three big rivals in the Middle East – Emirates, Etihad and Qatar airlines – have used a combined $42 billion in subsidies over a 14-year period from their respective governments to bolster their position in the international marketplace.
Separately, the three Middle East airlines have denied this, saying they have received only government loans that must be paid back.
American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and seven unions representing 300,000 airline workers are calling on the Obama administration to enforce Open Skies agreements and are asking for a freeze on new routes to the U.S. by the Gulf carriers.
“While the Obama administration ponders, the Gulf carriers are rapidly expanding into U.S. markets, harming American aviation jobs and jeopardizing vital air service to small and mid-sized communities,” said Jill Zuckman, chief spokesperson for the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies. “It’s time for President Obama to get personally involved and enforce our bilateral agreements. The administration needs to stand up for American workers and American businesses and stop the governments of the UAE and Qatar from gaming the aviation marketplace.”
The video is a minute and 45 seconds and is well produced, albeit seeming a bit scripted during the interview portion with real airline employees.
The Partnership for Fair & Open Skies says economists estimate that well over 1,500 American jobs are lost for every daily international roundtrip flight a U.S. airline is forced to cut. Domestically, bookings on U.S. carriers dropped an average of 10.8 percent in Boston, 7.6 percent in Dallas-Fort Worth, 21.4 percent in Seattle and 14.3 percent in Washington, D.C., the Partnership alleges.
Supporters of the way the current Open Skies Agreements are structured say the system encourages competition and better pricing. The Business Travel Coalition, in fact, has called on the big three U.S. carriers to answer several questions and turn over supporting documents to its 55-page report issued earlier this year to the Obama Administration, including:
• In your 55-page report you do not provide any empirically supported financial evidence of harm to the US3 from ME3 entry. Question: Why is that? Do you seek public policy development on hypothetical assumptions and projections?
• When it comes to Open Skies policy the consumer is the “North Star.” In your 55-page report there is zero mention of consumer harm from ME3 U.S. entry. Question: Why is that?
• The Big 3 U.S. airlines often claim that there is some intrinsically inviolable Open Skies tenet that correlates a country’s home market size to the amount of acceptable international seat capacity. Question: Can you point to where this is in any Open Skies agreement? On the other hand, is not a key principle of Open Skies the encouragement of innovative new business models and go-to-market market constructs? Is the US3 endeavoring to dictate which innovations are legitimate?
More by Rich Thomaselli
Get Travel Deals and Travel News
Recent Travel Opinions