Focus on the facts, not the food fight

By Lee Moak

Threats of (frivolous) lawsuits. Threats to cancel aircraft orders from Boeing, putting even more U.S. jobs at risk. Name-calling. Insults. More threats, in the form of retaliation by further market distortion and abuse of 5th Freedom routes. More insults, suited for a playground and not a business forum. More name-calling …

This has been the response by the leaders of Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Etihad to the public evidence documenting the more than $42 billion in subsidies provided to their airlines by the governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Rather than respond to the actual substance of the documented evidence of their subsidy violations of Open Skies, however, Akbar Al Baker of Qatar Airways, Tim Clark of Emirates, and James Hogan of Etihad have instead chosen to engage in threats and hurl insults and personal attacks in a desperate attempt to distract from the core issue at hand: subsidies that are violating U.S. trade agreements and jeopardizing U.S jobs.

The United Arab Emirates and Qatar decided to undertake a dramatic expansion of their state-owned airlines as tool for economic growth in their nations. Fueled by billions in government aid, the three major Gulf airlines have grown rapidly, far outpacing global GDP. They are distorting the international marketplace to benefit the Gulf nations at the expense of other airlines and their employees. It is the right of Qatar and the UAE to undertake this government-subsidized business model for their airlines; however, it is not their right to bring that approach into the United States.

U.S. Open Skies aviation trade agreements have been established on the principal of market-based competition. Open and free markets on a level playing field are indeed the basis of all U.S. trade policies. The Gulf subsidies run counter to Open Skies, and therefore can’t be allowed to continue if Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Etihad want to continue to operate into the U.S. under their existing Open Skies Agreements. They can remain subsidized or they can benefit from the advantages provided by Open Skies. They can’t have it both ways.

Naturally, the leaders of these airlines are not happy that their trade violation has been exposed and that the U.S. government is investigating their subsidies. The facts are against Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. They don’t like that. So instead, in an attempt to distract us from the facts, they’ve resorted to hurling insults and issuing threats. Americans for Fair Skies is committed to the evidence and to the facts in this case. We urge the U.S. government to do the same. At the end of the day, the facts will win, and the insults and threats will be nothing more than a distant memory of how desperate men behaved poorly.

Moak is president of Americans for Fair Skies, a veteran U.S. Marine Corps and Navy fighter pilot, former United States Commercial Airline pilot, and the former president of Air Line Pilots Association, International.

Originally published on TheHill.Com: Focus on the facts, not the food fight