Domestic air carriers are beseeching the Obama administration to protect their substandard service and block competitive foreign carriers from wooing too many American travelers.
Yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry and Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Catherine Novelli met with American Airlines Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Doug Parker and Delta Airlines CEO Richard Anderson so the execs could “explain their concerns about alleged subsidies being provided to three Gulf airlines,” according to a readout of the meeting from the State Department.
That followed “several” meetings “in recent months” between Novelli and stakeholders in the Open Skies debate, which, the State Department acknowledged, “has expanded international passenger and cargo flights to and from the United States, promoted increased travel and trade, and spurred job creation and economic growth.”
Kerry “also noted that U.S. agencies are continuing to review the U.S. airlines’ subsidy allegations and recommendations for U.S. government action, as well as the views expressed by other stakeholders and members of the public.”
Domestic carriers, including at the time United Airlines, began “quiet” lobbying of the Obama administration early this year, arguing that the government should restrict access for Emirates, Etihad Airlines and Qatar Airways — because of “unfair competition.”
The administration, they argue, should make it “fair skies.”
“By challenging open skies, you are not just challenging the aero-political situation, you are challenging the very essence of economic liberalization that the U.S. has championed for decades,” Emirates president Tim Clark told The New York Times then. “I hope the administration will not stand for this nonsense.”
Emirates Airlines trolled U.S. airlines with the commercial in the video above that highlighted their concern with passengers, serving of edible food and luxurious accommodations.
Open Skies agreements eliminate “government interference in the commercial decisions of air carriers about routes, capacity, and pricing, freeing carriers to provide more affordable, convenient, and efficient air service for consumers.”
In June, the U.S. Conference of Mayors declined to endorse the “big three” U.S. airlines’ push to freeze service from Gulf carriers.
“The freeze is the centerpiece of the Big Three’s agenda, and the fact that the mayors weren’t buying it represents a repudiation of the U.S. legacy carriers’ attack on Open Skies,” U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President for Public Affairs Jonathan Grella said at the time. “The freeze sought by the Big Three would be retroactive to January 2015. New flights to the U.S. that have already been announced would be erased. Cities would be denied expanded access to key segments of the international travel market.”
“It is time for the Big Three to follow the example of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and finally drop their push to freeze and roll back job-creating air service routes,” Grella added.
State Department press secretary John Kirby acknowledged Thursday it’s really a matter for the departments of Transportation and Commerce.
“I’m not aware of final decisions that have been made with respect to these claims,” Kirby said. “In fact, that’s one of the reasons why these two CEO’s wanted to speak to Secretary Kerry to continue to discuss their concerns. So I’m not aware that this been resolved in anyway whatsoever. And again, the secretary respects the role of DOT and the Commerce Department in terms of working through this.”