March 12, 2015
By Neal Tepel
Washington, DC – A newly released report documents $42 billion in foreign government subsidies and unfair benefits provided to Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates Airline in direct violation of U.S. Open Skies policy.
“Restoring Open Skies: The Need to Address Subsidized Competition from State-Owned Airlines” was released on March 5, by the Airline Pilots Association, the Allied Pilots Association, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants and the Airline Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Three U.S. airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are also involved in the project.
Together, the group has formed a coalition, the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, dedicated to restoring a level playing field to international air travel. The coalition has asked the U.S. government for support. Evidence gathered during a global two-year investigation shows that since 2004, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates received $42 billion in quantifiable subsidies and other unfair benefits from their respective governments.
"We believe these Gulf airlines are playing from the higher side of an uneven playing field, posing a serious threat to American jobs and the long-term viability of our nation's carriers," said Captain Keith Wilson, president of the Allied Pilots Association.
Every international roundtrip flight that is lost by U.S. airlines due to unfair competition with these three massively subsidized state-owned carriers, reportedly results in an average net loss of more than 800 U.S. jobs.
The multi-billion dollar subsidies include interest-free "loans" with no repayment obligation, government assumption of fuel-hedging losses, and subsidized airport charges. These have allowed Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates to rapidly expand their fleets and international routes. At the same time, the U.S. airline industry is being forced to reduce services and jobs.