Coalition formed in support of US Open Skies agreements

Atlas Air Boeing 747

Four US airlines have set up a coalition in support of Open Skies agreements with Gulf states and opposing demands from three big US carriers.

The US Airlines for Open Skies coalition is made up of Atlas Air Worldwide, FedEx, Hawaiian Airlines, and JetBlue Airways, who between them move around eight million tonnes of cargo a year.

They have sent a letter to US government to express their opposition to the demands of United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and American Airlines relating to the US Open Skies agreements with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar. They are calling on the government to initiate consultations with the Gulf states to address the alleged subsidies.

The coalition says the letter addresses the “significant economic benefits” of Open Skies, stresses the harm to US consumers, commercial and military supply chains, and the US economy, if the US were to freeze new routes from the UAE and Qatar and insist on renegotiation of its Open Skies agreements with those countries, as demanded by United, Delta and American.

The letter came hours before the government closed a public comment period on 3 August asking for views on whether Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways have dumped capacity and begun pushing competitors out of key markets via $42 billion in subsidies over the past decade. Each Gulf carrier has denied the claims.

Atlas Air Worldwide chief executive officer (CEO) and president, William Flynn, says: “Open Skies has allowed US cargo airlines to develop global networks which, in turn, have facilitated the rapid movement of US military supplies around the world in times of need, including to and from Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf.

“Diminution of the US commitment to Open Skies principles, especially the unrestricted right of carriers to expand services and enter new markets, would have long-term negative consequences for US military readiness.”

FedEx CEO and president, David Bronczek, says the actions by United, American and Delta undermine Open Skies agreements, which all three say they support.

Hawaiian Airlines CEO and president, Mark Dunkerley says the coalition believes the US should honour its Open Skies commitments, which “opens markets for US carriers, promotes competition on international and domestic routes, and facilitates US exports”.