Unfair government subsidies for Gulf airlines must be addressed

The government-subsidized Gulf carriers and their allies are brazenly mischaracterizing U.S. airlines’ efforts to restore a level playing field to international aviation and bring an end to the massive market-distorting subsidies that a pair of Persian Gulf governments are funneling to their state-owned airlines in clear violation of U.S. Open Skies policy.  

One of the Gulf carriers’ chief defenders, U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow, has repeatedly accused U.S. airlines of seeking to scrap Open Skies agreements with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, but nothing could be further from the truth (“Keep skies open and competition thriving,” May 7, The Hill’s Congress Blog). As Mr. Dow himself points out, the U.S. airlines were “100 percent behind Open Skies” when the agreements were established, and the truth is they still are. American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines — along with eight unions representing hundreds of thousands of employees — are merely asking that the Obama administration exercise its rights under the agreements and call for consultations with two of the 115 countries that have signed the agreements in order to address their state-owned airlines’ unfair subsidies. U.S. carriers aren’t pursuing “protectionist policies,” as Mr. Dow has falsely asserted — they’re pursuing fair competition. 

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One thing that Mr. Dow did get right is the “more than 20 years of uninterrupted bipartisan support” that Open Skies policy has enjoyed. What also enjoys bipartisan support is the U.S. airlines’ call for Open Skies consultations with Qatar and the UAE. That’s why a majority of the House of Representatives, 262 members in all, recently signed a letter to Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryTrump's winning weapon: Time The Memo: O'Rourke looks to hit reset button #FreeAustinTice trending on anniversary of kidnapping in Syria MORE and Secretary of Transportation Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxBig Dem names show little interest in Senate Lyft sues New York over new driver minimum pay law Lyft confidentially files for IPO MORE urging the administration to open the bilateral talks. We also have the support of dozens of local Chambers of Commerce around the country that understand this out-of-whack playing field poses a severe threat to American jobs.

Mr. Dow purports to represent the interests of the U.S. travel industry. So why is he defending unfair competition by foreign carriers that are taking passengers from U.S. airlines by flooding the U.S. market with subsidized flights, all while failing to generate new passenger demand or increase U.S. tourism? 

Mr. Dow calls the more than $42 billion in state subsidies and other unfair benefits that the Gulf carriers have received since 2004 a “red herring.” In fact, these subsidies and the very real harm that they are causing goes directly to the heart of this trade dispute. And that’s why we need the U.S. government to sit down and talk with the governments of the UAE and Qatar, as well as request a temporary freeze on new flights into the U.S. while the talks go forward.

From Jill Zuckman, chief spokeswoman, The Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, Washington, D.C.


Draconian GOP budget a call to arms for presidential election

Despite my Democratic Party pedigree, I am a proponent of increased military spending. That said, the GOP-backed budget passed by the Senate last week isn’t so much a blueprint for future spending as it is a call to arms for the 2016 presidential election — so much so, it might as well serve as the Republican Party’s national platform. If their budget weren’t so draconian, it would be laughable. The only trouble is, millions of Americans won’t be amused once they discover what the GOP has in store for them next year.

From Denny Freidenrich, Laguna Beach, Calif.