Thousands of Leaders Agree: It’s Time for the U.S. Government to End the Unfair Gulf Airline Subsidies

Roger Dow is at it again, attacking the U.S. carriers and tens of thousands of aviation workers who are urging the U.S. government to enforce Open Skies agreements and level the playing field for American businesses. Roger Dow’s recent op-ed on the Gulf carriers in the Huffington Post titled “On Competition, Not Even US Airlines Agree With US Airlines” is misguided in its facts, and uninformed in its conclusions.


Mr. Dow continues to ignore the facts around the subsidies that the governments of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar have provided to their state-owned carriers, which have been indisputably proven even in the Gulf carriers own submissions to the U.S. government. These subsidies, which violate the Open Skies agreements that the U.S. signed with these nations, are allowing the airlines to grow without stimulating new passenger demand, causing real harm and costing jobs now. Just last month, Delta canceled its non-stop service to Dubai from Atlanta after losing $5 million on this route during 2015. For every route ceded by a U.S. airline to one of the Gulf carriers, more than 1,500 jobs are lost. And it is not just Atlanta. Following Emirates’ entry into four key markets, bookings on U.S. carriers and their joint venture partners 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.


While Roger Dow implies that American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are alone in this fight, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, 21 U.S. Senators, 262 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, mayors and other state and local officials and business groups have all weighed in to urge the government to act and express concern over the impact of the subsidies on service and jobs in their communities.


In a letter, 21 Senators wrote, “it is important to ensure that Open Skies agreements protect and enhance fair and open competition. In fact as a matter of policy, the U.S. government should proactively be working to ensure that where government owned or sponsored entities are operating in the competitive marketplace, that they act in such a way as to not distort competition.”


Similarly, over 30 regional and local airports have expressed concerns about the impact on service and local jobs if the government fails to act. One of these airport directors, Dan Mann, the executive director of Columbia Metropolitan Airport, noted in a letter: “If allowed to continue, this will lead to service cuts to both regional and international airports, as many domestic routes serve as feeders for larger, more profitable flights to international destinations, ultimately resulting in substantial job losses throughout the country in a variety of different sectors.”


Additionally the U.S. Conference of Mayors, representing 1,400 mayors from across the country passed a resolution calling for the U.S. government to address the subsidies. These are just some examples of the more than 4,000 comments that were submitted to the Obama administration requesting that the U.S. government begin consultations with the governments of Qatar and the UAE.


These are people who have experienced the economic benefits from competition in their communities and they know exactly what is at stake if service is lost.


Importantly, seven unions, representing aviation workers across the nation, are urging the Obama administration to act because the jobs impact is so severe. Now is the time to stand up for the U.S. aviation industry and American jobs, not undercut them. Instead of standing with American workers, Roger Dow is aligning himself with highly subsidized foreign airlines that devalue their workers and are known for significant human rights abuses.


The U.S. airlines continue to strongly support Open Skies agreements. The U.S. has 117 agreements with nations across the globe and all but two of those agreements are providing the economic benefit and fair competition that is their hallmark. In the recent Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, the White House lauded the agreement for the way it “protects American workers and businesses from unfair competition by State-owned companies in other countries,” and seeks to ensure that these companies do not receive unfair subsidies. These are the exact concerns that have been raised about the Gulf Carriers. We are simply asking that the U.S. government apply a consistent policy toward Open Skies and follow it up with enforcement.


It’s time for the Obama administration to stand up for U.S. businesses and their workers by enforcing these bilateral agreements with the UAE and Qatar. American jobs are on the line.


Jill Zuckman of SKDKnickerbocker serves as the chief spokesperson for the Partnership for Open and Fair Skies. Before joining SKDK, Jill was an award-winning political correspondent and served as assistant to the secretary and director of public affairs for Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

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