Open Skies deals with Qatar, UAE need a level playing field

A recent op-ed in The Hill (“Let’s keep Open Skies open,” by Danny Sebright, March 19) disingenuously downplayed the massive government support enjoyed by Middle Eastern airlines as they attempt to flood U.S. markets.

In addition, Sebright attempts to lump this important issue with the U.S. aviation industry’s broad questions about Norwegian Air’s operational plans; these are separate issues and Sebright's column is a dishonest attempt to paint U.S. carriers as anti-competition.

Qatar, Etihad and Emirates airways, three state-owned enterprises, have benefited from approximately $42 billion in subsidies and unfair benefits funneled their way by the governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. At the same time, these airlines are aided by abhorrent labor practices in their home countries that help keep costs low, ties to their regulators that would be unthinkable in the U.S., and opaque financing tactics that obscure massive infusions of government dollars. With these advantages, it’s no wonder that they have expanded so rapidly.

ADVERTISEMENT

The U.S. has signed 114 Open Skies agreements in the past two decades —a positive development for global aviation. These agreements removed limitations on airline capacity and service. Fare prices are set in a competitive marketplace, and U.S. airlines have been able to expand overseas, helping connect the world in new and exciting ways. 

But Open Skies agreements only work if the parties play by the rules.

U.S. policy specifically states that Open Skies agreements should ensure “that competition is fair and the playing field is level by eliminating marketplace distortions, such as government subsidies.” Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates are in direct violation of these terms.

Here’s what we are seeking: For the U.S., Qatar and UAE governments to sit down and work out an arrangement that ensures the Gulf carriers and American airlines are competing on a level playing field. We simply want our concerns addressed by the proper authorities. And while the U.S. considers its course of action, we urge the government to freeze the opening of any new routes.

We, too, believe that Open Skies should be open. But they should also be fair.

From Capt. Tim Canoll, president of Air Line Pilots Association, International, Washington, D.C.


Allow TSA agents to defend themselves, as they protect us all

Once again the fate of federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers under attack depended on a non-federal law enforcement entity protecting them (“Machete-wielding man shot at New Orleans airport,” March 20). Federal officers of this importance to national security are better served if finally allowed to protect themselves. 

I am definitely not saying “let’s arm all TSA officers” — far from that. But, like the U.S. Capitol, Border Patrol, Customs, federal Bureau of Prisons and Federal Protective Service officers and others, the TSA should protect its own. There is nothing unwise about allowing a thoroughly vetted small unit of TSA officers to be properly trained in armed self-defense.

It is absolutely sickening that these dedicated TSA officers, who risk their lives as the lowest paid federal officers serving on the front lines of national security here at home, haven’t been trusted to protect their own. We trust these officers to find bombs and loaded weapons, to keep all of us safe. Millions of law-abiding Americans prove they can safely conduct themselves with their guns; so can the TSA officers be trusted.

This time, the agency got lucky. But imagine if the attacker had also used his firebombs while unarmed TSA officers and passengers were left simply to pray for their survival. Whatever it takes, whatever the federal norms are for bringing federal law enforcement officers on duty anywhere, it needs to be done for the TSA.

From A.J. Castilla, Boston