It appears that Kevin Mitchell, the Gulf carriers’ most vocal advocate/unregistered lobbyist, has once again deliberately misrepresented the facts surrounding the Open Skies subsidy fight to strengthen his fundamentally flawed argument against America’s three largest airlines. In a recent Aviation Week opinion piece, Mitchell pushes the same false and tired narrative he’s become known for, and adds in a new attack on the Canadian government’s proactive Blue Skies policy. The piece is intentionally misleading, and Americans for Fair Skies would like to set the record straight.
To start, Open Skies Agreements have created more jobs and opportunities for American workers and consumers than any other aviation agreement or innovation, and both the US3 and Americans for Fair Skies have made it clear that these agreements are wholeheartedly supported. Mitchell continues to peddle the alternative fact that American, Delta, and United are against Open Skies. They aren’t. Kevin Mitchell is lying.
Unlike Mr. Mitchell, however, we do not believe our Open Skies Agreements should be abused. Our trade partners operating under a liberalized air transport agreement should not be allowed to intentionally harm competition and threaten the livelihoods of American workers. The Gulf carriers Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways and their state-supporters – the UAE and State of Qatar – have weaponized an innovative idea, and it is not “anti-Open Skies” to want to see the spirit of that idea enforced against the predatory behavior of Mr. Mitchell’s clients. For every route lost to the illegally subsidized Gulf carriers, the futures of 1,500 American aviation workers are dimmed.
So we ask Mr. Mitchell- How can you possibly think that continuing to allow this exploitation can possibly be good for the U.S. economy, American aviation industry, the millions employed either directly or indirectly by that industry, or for the American consumers who face decreasing connectivity and higher long term fares?
Subsidized Gulf capacity growth does not lead to increased traffic nor does it stimulate growth, it only allows for artificially low prices to be offered that aim specifically to force U.S. carriers to abandon once-profitable routes.
Furthermore, Mr. Mitchell has once again tried to equate Gulf subsidization with Delta’s investment in a Chinese airline. Perhaps Mr. Mitchell is unaware that there is a significant difference between how Chinese carriers and Gulf carriers access U.S. airspace. Or more likely he is aware, he just once again sees an opportunity to skew the facts to support his false narrative. Gulf carriers are bound to operate under the terms and conditions, including a fair competition clause, of the Open Skies agreements their state-owners hold with the United States. These Open Skies Agreements mean they do not need U.S. government approval to establish new routes into the U.S. and therefore, despite lack of demand, they have dumped significant new capacity into the U.S., flooding markets with excess seats. China, on the other hand, has no such agreement with the United States. Why? Because their airlines are subsidized, China holds a bilateral agreement with United States- not an Open Skies Agreement, which means the U.S. government has the discretion to approve or deny any/all Chinese carrier expansion into the United States.
Finally, Mitchell’s newest tactic is to attack Canada’s “Blue Skies” policy. Mitchell references (but does not link) to a kiwi.com airfare analysis and claims that Canada’s aviation policies have hurt consumers. We found that study and, unsurprisingly, found that Mr. Mitchell misrepresented the data. Not only did he cherry pick Canada’s worst statistic, but that same analysis also ranks Qatar or the United Arab Emirates as the most expensive aviation markets in 3/4 categories, and 2nd in the last.
Kevin Mitchell and the for-profit Business Travel Coalition continue to spread false information about the Open Skies debate in an attempt to aid the illegally subsidized Gulf carriers. It’s American workers and consumers will feel the impact of his dishonesty while he lines his pockets with the same money that is being used to perpetuate the largest trade violation in history.
Shame on you, Mr. Mitchell. And shame on whatever group (or groups) is out there funneling you money to keep up your façade to benefit their dishonest lobbying campaign.