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Big 3 US Airlines Fighting Open Skies

Three of the United States’ largest airlines – American, United, and Delta – have begun petitioning the current administration to limit current open skies agreements with both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The airlines argue that the state-owned airlines of these countries have been so heavily subsidized by their governments that they have been able to sell airfare incredibly low, even at a loss to the airlines. This, the US airlines argue, has led to such unfair prices that they are unable to compete in these markets.

The United States has over 100 open skies agreements with countries across the globe. These agreements serve to limit or entirely remove restrictions on international air travel – crucial for both business travelers in a global world as well as those traveling for recreational purposes. Large American airlines all have partnerships with a number of government-owned airlines globally, such as Air China, Singapore Airlines, and Air India.

Most international governments subsidize their airlines for greater competition over foreign air companies. However, American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Airlines are arguing that the extent to which United Arab Emirates and Qatar subsidize their own airlines violates open skies agreements’ “fair competition” clauses.

It is unknown whether or not the Obama administration will renegotiate the existing open skies agreements with United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The US Department of Transportation is currently analyzing the request.

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