“Retaliatory protectionism” was the expression Qatar Airways’ CEO Al Baker used at the IATA annual meeting today to explain how Qatar will handle any potential changes of U.S. Open Skies policy to mitigate the damage being wrought on the U.S. aviation industry as a result of the massive subsidies being provided by the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to their three state-owned airlines in direct violation of their Open Skies Agreements with the United States.
Al Baker, who is the CEO of Qatar Airways, an entity he has argued many times acts separately from its owner, Qatar, highlighted again that they are one in the same as he spoke of potential Qatari government action in retaliation to any attempt to address or reduce harmful Gulf subsidies.
Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have made it clear that any attempt to stymie the subsidized growth of their airlines will result in massive retaliatory actions reverberating far outside of international aviation trade policy, as was seen in 2010 when Canada limited landing rights at the Toronto Airport and were kicked out of Camp Mirage and actively lobbied against by the UAE for a UN Security Council seat as a result. Emirates CEO Tim Clark has made it clear that Emirates will increase flights into the US, not as a result of market demand moving forward, but as a direct response to any potential US action to limit subsidy distortions.
Americans for Fair Skies is committed to the continuation of Open Skies policies, as they were intended, free from subsidy distortions and supporting a private, open marketplace where service and price dictates customer choice and growth. Fair competition is impossible when that process is turned on its head by over $40 billion in subsidies. We cannot allow threats to stop us from acting to save U.S. jobs and support a critical portion of the U.S. GDP. Let’s restore competition and fair skies. The time for U.S. government action is now.