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President Trump on Thursday met with several airline CEOs and airport executives to discuss a series of subjects, although one major topic appeared to be on the backburner-the Open Skies Agreement debate.
According to multiple reports, Trump met with United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz of United Airlines, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly, and Ginger Evans, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation, among others.
Several points were discussed, including:
On Regulations: "You guys might be the most regulated industry, although I could think of a few others," Trump told the group.
On Tax breaks: Trump promised a "phenomenal" announcement in two to three weeks regarding taxes, a point that press secretary Sean Spicer reiterated hours later in his daily press briefing, saying "We are looking at rolling out the outline of a comprehensive tax plan not seen since 1986" that will benefit both businesses and individuals.
On Air Traffic Control: "I hear we're spending billions and billions of dollars; it's a system that's totally out of whack," Trump said, though he did not completely elaborate on whether the system should be privatized.
On Infrastructure: "We have an obsolete plane system," Trump said. "We have obsolete airports."
[READMORE]READ MORE: Big Three U.S. Airlines Get Sit-Down With Trump[/READMORE]
What was left unsaid or unreported-or talked about behind closed doors-was the Open Skies issue.
Munoz, Bastian and American Airlines CEO Doug Parker believe their 'big three' counterparts in the Middle East have accepted a combined $50 billion in government subsidies over the last dozen-plus years that have allowed Emirates, Etihad and Qatar airlines to alter the international travel marketplace.
Supporters of keeping the agreements intact and proponents have having re-opening Open Skies talks with the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have clashed for the better part of two years.
This week was no exception.
The Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, which represents the big three U.S. carriers and several unions, issued a statement regarding President Trump's meeting with U.S. airline CEOs.
"We appreciate President Trump's time and his attention to the challenges facing the aviation industry," said Jill Zuckman, chief spokesperson for the Partnership.
"We are particularly gratified that President Trump is focused on longstanding trade violations by the UAE and Qatar that are costing American jobs. With $50 billion in foreign government subsidies to Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, our U.S. carriers are at a competitive disadvantage that is costing American jobs. It's time to enforce our agreements and stand up for the 300,000 airline workers whose jobs are at stake. We look forward to continued discussions with President Trump and his team."
The Gulf airlines have denied the subsidy claim, saying monies from their governments are merely loans and need to be paid back.
The U.A. Airlines For Open Skies Coalition, which represents FedEx, Atlas Air, JetBlue, and Hawaiian airlines, sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao highlighting the benefits of U.S. Open Skies agreements. Specifically, the Coalition urged Secretaries Tillerson and Chao to reject the demands of Delta, United, and American that access to U.S. routes for Emirates, Etihad and Qatar airlines be frozen.
"The (U.S.) legacy carriers claim such action is a justified response to alleged subsidies the foreign carriers have received from their home governments," the letter read, but "they fail to cite a specific violation and have not pursued the established dispute settlement procedures under the Open Skies agreements and those administered by the DOT."
Rich Thomaselli has written for TravelPulse since 2014 and has been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. His work has...
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