US airlines press Tillerson to keep Gulf skies open
Atlanta, US - The major US airlines that allege unfair competition by the Gulf rivals can’t show that new flight routes are costing US jobs, allies of the Middle Eastern carriers told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Opening discussions with the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar over trade claims could hurt travel and tourism and encourage other countries to take actions against the US ‘with some significant unintended consequences’, Bill Flynn, chief executive officer of freight company Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc, said in an interview.
Flynn was among several corporate executives who met with Tillerson in Washington for about a half hour on Tuesday in support of maintaining the existing aviation agreements with the Gulf nations. He was joined by FedEx Corp President David Bronczek and JetBlue Airways Corp. Chief Executive Officer Robin Hayes, which are part of the US Airlines for Open Skies, a coalition that has lobbied to preserve the UAE and Qatar deals.
The meeting stoked a two year old fight over the US expansion of Emirates, Evita Airways PJSC and Qatar Airways Ltd.
The UAE and Qatari governments enabled the carriers’ growth by providing them with US$50bn in subsidies to buy new jets and cover money-losing routes, according to Delta Air Lines Inc, United Continental Holdings Inc. and American Airlines Group Inc.
The three biggest U.S. carriers are lobbying the Trump administration to consult with the Gulf nations over alleged violations of the “Open Skies” agreements that govern flights among the countries.
Also attending the State Department meeting were U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow and Airports Council International – North America CEO Kevin Burke.
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani (left) and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in Washington on July 26