Emirates president Sir Tim Clark has argued US airlines are seeking to “preserve their domination of the US long-haul” market in an opinion piece defending the UAE’s Open Skies agreement with the country.
In the op-ed for Fox news, Clark said Americans are being fed a distorted view of the UAE-US Open Skies deal following “million-dollar” lobbying efforts by US carriers American, Delta and United.
Since 2015, the US airlines have accused Emirates, its Abu Dhabi rival Etihad and Qatar Airways of receiving billions of dollars in government subsidies to the detriment of US jobs and market competition and called for the current agreement to be reviewed.
Clark argued in the piece that Open Skies deals have benefitted US airlines and the American economy, citing an Emirates study that claims the carrier supported more than 104,000 US jobs and contributed $21.3bn in revenue.
He also highlighted the airline’s spending as the “world’s largest purchaser of US-built Boeing aircraft”.
“We have been very clear about the fact that Emirates competes on a commercial basis and does not receive subsidies,” he said.
The piece comes in response to a July 22 op-ed by former US transportation secretary James Burnley, in which he sided with American, Delta and United by arguing the Gulf airlines had distorted the aviation market and damaged the US aviation industry by receiving more than $50bn of government subsidies.
In response, Clark described the figures taken from the US airlines’ lobbying group, the Partnership for Open and Fair Skies, as “inaccurate”
“There is a reason the Big 3 have opted to advance their distorted math via million-dollar lobbying campaigns instead of filing a formal complaint against Emirates with US Department of Transportation – the facts don’t support their claims,” he said, in an apparent reference to calls from US Travel president and CEO Roger Dow last week.
Following a meeting with US secretary of state Rex Tillerson that included the heads of US airline Jetblue and cargo firm FedEx, Dow urged the three carriers to raise their concerns through the International Air Transportation Fair and Competitive Practices Act (IATFCPA), allowing a Department of Transportation investigation, rather than directly lobbying the government of Donald Trump.
The Emirates president went on to describe favourable legislation enjoyed by the US carriers including a $15bn bailout after the September 11 attacks in 2001, antitrust immunity for join venture partners, pension-relief legislation, “the grandfathering of airport slots, fuel-tax breaks and various types of support from individual state governments”.
He also argued that American, Delta and United did not appear to be suffering as the world’s first, second and fourth most profitable airlines, despite their claims.
“Behind their talking points, the Big 3 and their apologists are really looking to defend the all-too-recent status quo in which they controlled the US long-haul market at the expense of consumer choice,” Clark said.
“They hope to go back to a time when they could extract pricing premiums from US consumers while providing a poor product in return.”
He argued they should instead use their “ample means” to compete in the current system “versus selectively supporting free trade when they feel it suits them and protectionism when they feel it does not”.
The Open Skies debate between the Gulf carrier and their US rivals has heated up again in recent months after a quiet period after the election of Donald Trump.
Last month it emerged American had ended codeshare deals with Qatar Airways and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad.
This was followed by the meeting of US companies supporting the Gulf carriers last week with US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, who will also meet with those opposing the current Open Skies deals soon.
US Travel’s Dow said those supporting the current Open Skies deals with the UAE and Qatar believed the Gulf carriers were supporting jobs through new routes and a review could damage tourism.