Last week, the travel industry scored a major victory in our fight to preserve our nation’s Open Skies policies. The U.S. State Department announced recently that they will not freeze new Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways flights to the U.S. or open formal consultations on existing Open Skies agreements, but instead will hold “informal talks” with both Qatar and the U.A.E.
As you may know, this has been a hot topic for our organization for the last year and a half. Since the Big Three U.S. legacy airlines (American, Delta and United) launched anti-competitive attacks on these Gulf-based carriers in February 2015, our goal has been to preserve our Open Skies agreements and to prevent a freeze in service. Despite the Big Three’s efforts to pressure the State Department into dismantling our highly successful Open Skies agreements, the State Department has chosen to do neither.
This is a big win for the travel industry. Allowing the Gulf carriers access to the U.S. market will help grow the American economy and drive job growth. Despite aggressive claims otherwise from the Big Three, the fact still remains: Open Skies has been a long-standing, prosperous policy for our country. The arguments that Gulf carriers will take away jobs and business from U.S. based carriers are simply untrue. According to a comprehensive study by Oxford Economics, only 0.7 percent of passengers who flew on a Big Three flight to the U.S. could have flown the same route on a Gulf carrier. In fact, many of the passengers they bring to the U.S. actually connect on American carriers and help grow the larger travel industry.
The travel industry, and indeed the American economy, is stronger when lawmakers embrace policies that are pro-competition, pro-growth and pro-traveler. We will continue leading the effort to protect Open Skies agreements and advance policies that allow the travel industry to thrive.