A bipartisan group of House members is pushing the Obama administration to "swiftly address" allegations about foreign airline flight subsidies that have roiled the nation's aviation industry this year.
Reps. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), Robert Dold (R-Ill.), Paul Cook (R-Calif.), Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and Frank Pallone (R-N.J.) said Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxBusiness, labor groups teaming in high-speed rail push Hillicon Valley: Uber, Lyft agree to take California labor win nationwide | Zoom to implement new security program along with FTC | Virgin Hyperloop completes first test ride with passengers Uber, Lyft eager to take California labor win nationwide MORE should follow up a review of allegations that Middle Eastern airlines are receiving unfair subsidies from their home governments with an in-person meeting.
"As the public comment period is now officially closed, it is time for your agency to swiftly address these trade violations,” the lawmakers wrote. “We formally request a meeting with you to discuss the threats posed by the subsidized Gulf carriers to the U.S. airline industry and to U.S. workers' jobs.”
Major U.S. airlines like Delta, United and American, known as the Big Three, have alleged that Middle Eastern competitors like Emirates Airlines and Qatar and Etihad airways are receiving payments that violate the spirit of the Open Skies agreements between the U.S. and the governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which own the Gulf airlines.
They are pushing the Obama administration to launch a review of the claims with the Middle Eastern governments, which would involve a delicate set of negotiations that critics have said would upset other areas of foreign relations.
The Gulf carriers have denied violating the Open Skies agreements, and they have argued that U.S. airlines have historically received subsidies from the federal government at times of distress, such as the period after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Travel industry and consumer groups, meanwhile, have largely sided with the Persian Gulf carriers in the Open Skies flight, accusing the airlines of trying to reduce competition for international flights.
The lawmakers who wrote to Foxx on Tuesday sided with the domestic carriers.
"Contrary to the goals of Open Skies policy, Qatar, Emirates, and Etihad airlines have received $42 billion in subsidies and unfair benefits from their governments, flouting the good faith inherent in these international treaties and undermining the principles of open competition," they wrote.
“Failure to confront these actions will set a dangerous precedent for future trade agreements with other nations, and will lead to significant job losses and cuts in airline service in the United States,” they continued. “It is our hope that a meeting with you will allow for a better understanding of Congress’s concerns and the timely need for consultations with Qatar and the UAE, as provided for in the bilateral aviation agreements."