Two of the biggest US air cargo players have joined two passenger carriers to launch the “US Airlines for Open Skies Coalition.”
Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings and FedEx Express, in partnership with Hawaiian Airlines and JetBlue Airways, submitted a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker to express their opposition to demands by the three big US passenger airlines that Open Skies agreements with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates be renegotiated.
You can read the full text of the letter here, but the gist of the matter is that three biggest US passenger carriers, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines, have complained that they cannot compete with carriers based in Qatar and the UAE because those carriers (Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways) are illegally subsidized by their governments. The Qatar- and UAE-based carriers have responded formally by submitting extensive documentation to the US Government in an attempt to prove that they are not unfairly subsidized, but many in the aviation industry believe the US Big 3 may have enough lobbying power to sway legislators.
FedEx Express President and CEO David Bronczek spoke out several months ago in support of keeping skies open, and he is now joined by the leaders of Atlas, Hawaiian and JetBlue.
- Atlas Air Worldwide CEO and President William Flynn: “Open Skies has allowed U.S. cargo airlines to develop global networks which, in turn, have facilitated the rapid movement of U.S. military supplies around the world in times of need, including to and from Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf. Diminution of the U.S. commitment to Open Skies principles, especially the unrestricted right of carriers to expand services and enter new markets, would have long-term negative consequences for U.S. military readiness.”
- Hawaiian CEO and President Mark Dunkerley: “The Big 3 do not speak for all, or even most, U.S. airlines. Our coalition believes that the United States should honor its Open Skies commitments, which opens markets for U.S. carriers, promotes competition on international and domestic routes, and facilitates U.S. exports.”
- JetBlue President and CEO Robin Hayes: “Global competition is a fact of life. Open Skies has opened the door to tremendous new opportunities for U.S. airlines including JetBlue – competition that benefits consumers and the economy – and we must oppose calls to roll back that progress and risk reverting to the old days of heavy government regulation of our industry.”
- FedEx CEO and President David Bronczek: “The Big 3 say that they support Open Skies, but the actions they recommend would undermine it. Those actions would breach our Open Skies agreements, provoke retaliation against U.S. carriers, and raise serious doubts about whether the United States is a reliable Open Skies partner.”
While Cargo Facts believes that Open Skies agreements should also be “Fair Skies” agreements, we point out that all of the Big 3 US carriers have received significant government subsidization in the form of Chapter 11 protection, so their complaints ring hollow.