Open Skies: Everyone Must Play By the Rules

By Captain Lee Moak

Since their invention, aviation trade agreements, known as Open Skies, have been a tremendous boon for U.S. airlines, consumers, and aviation employees. Reduced interference allows for growth, and growth means more jobs. Which is why there have been 115 Open Skies agreements signed between the U.S. and other nations over the past 36 years. Roger Dow of US Travel would have you believe, however, that U.S. airlines, their employees, and their allies oppose all such aviation trade agreements. As Emirates CEO Tim Clark said it, this is “tosh.” In fact, such spin is quite dangerous, because it grossly distorts a trade dispute that has affected aviation markets across the globe and directly threatens thousands of U.S. jobs.

Of the 115 Open Skies Agreements signed over the past 36 years, there are currently two that Americans for Fair Skies is asking the U.S. government to address. Which means that we are talking about less than 2% of existing Open Skies Agreements. Indeed, we’re not disputing their legitimacy or their existence – quite the opposite. Evidence has been presented that our trading partners are violating these two agreements, and we are simply asking the U.S. government to address the violations of these agreements. Mr. Dowd’s op-ed ignores all of these facts. His story, which sounds disconcertingly similar to the messaging coming directly from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates‘ three subsidized Gulf airlines, misses the key point that Americans for Fair Skies has been trying to make. Our campaign isn’t about ending Open Skies agreements, its about making sure they are enforced so that all parties involved have the same opportunity to compete fairly. This is about restoring fairness to the two Open Skies Agreements that have not been adhered to by our trading partners. Mr. Dow and the Gulf airlines can spin this all they want – they can threaten and they can grandstand, but the facts remain the same. And frankly they’re quite simple. There is a multitude of evidence proving the existence of more than $42 billion in subsidies that have been provided to the state owned carriers of Qatar and the UAE over the past 10 years. These subsidies directly violate the Open Skies Agreements Qatar and the UAE signed with the United States. And these agreements have a built in dispute resolution mechanism that can be employed by any party at any time.

As National Security Advisor Susan Rice recently put it, “increased trade and investment is good for the global economy, but to realize its full potential, everyone has to play by the same rules.” And that is all we are asking – for the U.S. government to bring Qatar and the UAE to the table as outlined by the agreement they signed so that everyone has the chance to play by the same rules. What’s so wrong about that?

Learn more at FairSkies.Org.

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