US airlines press for Trump administration crackdown on foreign air carriers

The top three U.S. airlines sat down with the Trump administration on Wednesday to urge a White House crackdown on Persian Gulf countries for unfairly subsidizing their state-run airlines.

Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTillerson moves to eliminate special envoy posts at State Dept.: report Gorka rips Trump’s Cabinet and White House team on way out The Hill’s 12:30 Report MORE met with the chief executives of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, according to guidance from the agency.

The U.S. aviation industry has long expressed frustration that Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways have received over $50 billion in foreign subsidies. They argue that the subsidies undermine the international Open Skies Agreement, create unfair competition and pose a threat to U.S. airlines and workers.

“We appreciate the opportunity to speak with the Trump administration about the threat that the massive Gulf carrier subsidies pose to 1.2 million American workers and the harm that will only continue if our Open Skies agreements aren’t enforced,” said Jill Zuckman, chief spokeswoman for the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, a coalition that represents American, Delta and United.

“We look forward to working with the administration to protect American jobs and defend the U.S. aviation industry from trade cheating.”

Trump has been under increasing pressure to rework international aviation agreements with the Gulf nations, with the powerful airline industry ramping up its lobbying efforts on the issue.

But voices on the other side of the debate have also been putting pressure on the White House to keep the current aviation agreements in place, with groups including the U.S. Travel Association meeting with Tillerson earlier this month.

Supporters of the Gulf carriers argue that the new routes have given flyers more choices, driven down prices and encouraged more air travel.

“These policies further enable air service that connects America to underserved regions of the world where practically no competition exists,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow in a statement. “America should grow its market share of inbound travel from those willing to provide it.”

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