Gulf airline subsidies forcing US companies into layoffs, service cuts

The Business Travel Coalition’s (BTC) Kevin Mitchell recently wrote an op-ed on The Hill’s Congress Blog titled “Delta Air Lines’ campaign against Gulf carrier subsidies is built on house of cards” (Dec. 14) that is short on facts and long on hyperbole.

Mitchell outrageously compares Delta’s involvement in the Open Skies debate to Kevin Spacey’s underhanded character Frank Underwood in “House of Cards.” However, it is the BTC that is diverting attention from the issue with hysterical accusations. The governments of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar have pumped more than $42 billion in subsidies and unfair benefits to the Gulf carriers, distorting the aviation market and violating Open Skies agreements. The cash infusions have allowed the Gulf carriers to expand rapidly into the U.S. market, putting American jobs and air service at risk.

Domestically, U.S. airlines are losing market share by astonishing numbers in cities that the Gulf carriers have entered. Bookings on U.S. carriers dropped an average of 10.8 percent in Boston, 7.6 percent in Dallas-Fort Worth, 21.4 percent in Seattle and 14.3 percent in Washington, D.C. Mitchell fails to understand that the subsidies affect communities across the U.S.
The harmful impact of the subsidies is evident in the service cuts coming from the last few months. Delta announced the termination of its service between Atlanta and Dubai after losing $5 million on that route during the first 10 months of 2015, citing unfair competition with the Gulf carriers. And United Airlines announced that it is discontinuing its Washington Dulles to Dubai route, pointing to the Gulf carriers’ subsidies as a key factor.

For every route lost to a Gulf carrier, more than 1,500 American aviation jobs are lost. The subsidies, essentially blank government checks, make it virtually impossible for the U.S. airlines to stay competitive. The hard-working pilots, flight attendants and hundreds of thousands of other workers who rely on a strong aviation industry should be offended by Mitchell’s disregard for this issue and the devastating impact that inaction is having.

It’s time for the U.S. government to enforce the Open Skies agreements with the UAE and Qatar and level the playing field for American businesses and workers.

From Jill Zuckman, chief spokesman, the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, Washington, D.C.

Originally published on TheHill.com