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Businesses Back Gulf Airlines In Subsidies Dispute

Photo: Middle East Eye

A coalition of transportation and tourism businesses defended the Gulf Airlines and asked the US government to continue the aviation agreements with Gulf nations in spite of allegations of unfair trade by major US airlines.

Around 28 businesses which included courier service FedEx, budget air carrier JetBlue and hotel giant Wyndham, wrote a letter opposing to calls from Delta, American Airlines and United to renegotiate “Open Skies” agreements with Qatar and the UAE.

“Open Skies agreements deliver substantial benefits for the US economy. All in all Open Skies agreements support more than 15 million US tourism and hospitality jobs,” the letter read.

“Unfortunately, these jobs are potentially jeopardised by demands from three US passenger airlines to restrict access to the US market for two Open Skies partners, in breach of our obligations.”

The letter also was addressed to the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, among other officials.

“We urge the administration to protect Open Skies by insisting that these claims be assessed on the merits and in the proper forum,” the letter said.

The US carriers alleged Gulf airlines of unfair subsidies into their national airlines Etihad and Qatar Airways, and they are lobbying the Trump administration to step in.

Responding to the letter, the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, a group linking the three US airlines as well as trade unions for pilots and flight attendants, accused the pro-Gulf coalition of risking US jobs to defend subsidised foreign air carriers.

“The truth is that Open Skies agreements already provide a way to deal with rule breakers and anything else is just an attempt to delay and derail American jobs,” Jill Zuckman, the group’s spokesperson, said in a statement.

“We agree with President Trump that trade deals need to be fair, enforced and for the benefit of the American worker.”

Earlier, Qatar Airways had dropped plans of acquiring a 10 percent stake in American Airlines.

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