A key component of our nation’s military preparedness and national security preparation is being threatened due to gross trade violations being perpetrated by two of our trading partners in the Middle East.
U.S. airline companies have long documented that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and State of Qatar have subsidized their three respective airlines — Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways — with more than $40 billion and are putting the U.S. Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) program at risk.
This program allows the Department of Defense to augment military aircraft capability during a national defense related crisis with equipment volunteered by U.S. air carriers. Today, the Civil Reserve Air Fleet is comprised of more than 450 mostly wide-body aircraft that allow for the transportation of thousands of troops and tons of cargo to destinations near and far at a moment’s notice during times of crisis.
However, the massive subsidies flowing to Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways threaten the fleet by making fair competition impossible and putting U.S. airlines and their employees at a significant competitive disadvantage in the international marketplace on long-haul routes. U.S. airlines and their employees can compete against any airline in the world, but they can’t compete against governments.
As the governments of the UAE and Qatar flood their airlines with subsidies — predatorily expanding and dumping seats into markets that their airlines would not be able to serve if the playing field was level — U.S. airlines lose and forgo international routes, and thereby downsize their CRAF mission-capable aircraft fleets. This undercuts the U.S. military’s ability to call upon U.S. airlines for support for military and humanitarian missions.
The aviation trade agreements the U.S. holds with the UAE and Qatar, known as Open Skies agreements, represent two of the 119 Open Skies agreements the U.S. currently holds with countries around the world. These agreements have bolstered choice and access for consumers, increased economic opportunities for our aviation industry, and supported hundreds of thousands of jobs in the industry. They have also supported our military presence around the globe and expanded U.S. airlines’ fleets.
Therefore, as Qatar and the UAE’s massive violations of these agreements continue to negatively impact our commercial aviation industry, they also threaten our national security. It is time for the U.S. government to take action. We are asking President Trump to say “no more” to trade partners who violate their trade agreements and threaten American workers. We must stand up for Open Skies trade agreements and our national security, and end the UAE and Qatari airline subsidies.
Dan Carey is president of the Allied Pilots Association, which serves as the certified collective bargaining agent for the 15,000 professional pilots who fly for American Airlines and is the largest independent pilots’ union in the world. American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Continental have documented the subsidies written about in this column.
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