Thai Airways Loses Money & Shrinks; Etihad Airways Loses Even More Money and is the Fastest Growing Airline in the World

$17 Billion in government subsidies fuels Etihad’s market distortion

Washington, DC- After accumulating more than $700 million in operating losses over the past two years, Thai Airways has announced that they will be entering a period of major restructuring that will include everything from significantly reducing the size of their fleet, to redistributing some routes to their LCC, Thai Smile, while doing away with other long haul routes altogether. They have cancelled plans to expand further into Germany, and will be suspending service to Madrid, Spain, and pulling out of Moscow, Russia and Johannesburg, South Africa, with other reductions planned[2].

Meanwhile, in the United Arab Emirates, after recording significant operating losses every year since it’s founding, Etihad Airways is doing the opposite. Etihad has recently retrofitted it’s A380 with a 3 bedroom “residence suite,” has 169 wide-body aircraft on order with another 56 in the works [3],  and has scheduled new routes to Baku, Tbilisi and Dar es Salaam in the second half of 2015, expanding its destinations to 110 [4].

Etihad has received over $17 billion in subsidies from its home government allowing the airline to not only stay in business – the airline would not be commercially viable without the government subsidies – but also to growth at unprecedented and unwarranted rates[5].  Etihad’s subsidies – which includes $6.3 billion in direct government cash and another $4.6 billion in zero-interest “loans” with no repayment terms or obligations – run counter to the Open Skies agreement the UAE holds with the US.

If Etihad were truly a commercial enterprise, continuously recording operational losses, especially ones as large as those recorded would require significant organizational restructuring with the aim to avoid going out of business. That is precisely what Thai Air is doing, restructuring and re-approaching their business model[6] with the aim of ultimately reporting a profit- the goal of any company that competes in a private, open marketplace. Etihad, because it is merely an arm of the government, cannot go bankrupt, and can instead continue to dump seat capacity at sub-market rates in their quest to steal market-share (and ultimately jobs) from U.S. airlines and their workers[7].

The Open Skies Agreement that the United States entered into with the UAE (before Etihad Airways even existed) clearly stipulates that companies competing under such an agreement will do so with the understanding of competing in a private, open marketplace based on fair competition free from subsidies. The UAE has chosen not to abide by their agreement, and as such the U.S. Department of Transportation has clearly stated, “if aviation partners fail to observe existing U.S. bilateral rights, or discriminate against U.S. airlines, we will act vigorously, through all appropriate means, to defend our rights and protect our airlines[8].”

The time for action to restore fairness to our Open Skies and safeguard the American aviation sector and American aviation jobs is now. Captain Moak, President of Americans for Fair Skies shared this, “The UAE and Qatar have failed to observe their bilateral agreements, and they have discriminated against U.S. airlines. Therefore, the U.S. government needs to show real leadership in the fight against unfair subsidies, like many European nations and the EU Transport Minister are now doing, and stand up to the Gulf subsidies by freezing new routes into the U.S. and calling for consultations with the UAE and Qatar.”

For more information visit

[8]US Federal Register / Vol. 60, No. 85 / Wednesday, May 3, 1995 / Notices 21845

americans4fairskies2015Thai Airways Loses Money & Shrinks; Etihad Airways Loses Even More Money and is the Fastest Growing Airline in the World
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Americans for Fair Skies Applauds European Leadership to Combat Gulf Airline Subsides; Calls on U.S. Government to Act Now

Americans for Fair Skies applauds a recently announced combined European effort to combat the illegal subsidies from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to their airlines and ensure “fair competition.” Lead by France and Germany, it asks European Union partners and the EU executive commission to work together in finding strategy that will bring about a fair and equitable resolution to this issue.[1]

This development comes after “current EU talks with the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council on fair aviation competition have failed to curb market-distorting government aid to carriers such as Emirates, Etihad Airways PJSC and Qatar Airways Ltd,” according to European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc.[2] If implemented, this new effort, supported by other EU member states and the European Commission, would replace individual bilateral agreement negotiations and will be headed by the Commission on behalf of individual members.

French transport minister Alain Vidalies stated, “Any commercial flying agreement including the granting of air traffic rights to foreign carriers should be accompanied by provisions allowing member states to monitor potential illegal subsidies and unfair competitive practices.”

Germany’s Transport Minister further explained that such an arrangement would allow for the opportunity for both sides to talk about new landing rights and would likely delay the decision to further open European Markets until such conversations had taken place.

“Americans for Fair Skies applauds the efforts that France and Germany have taken to support their aviation industries and their workers and end the market distorting Gulf subsidies,” said Americans for Fair Skies President, Lee Moak. “We are calling on the U.S. government to safeguard our vital aviation industry and the hundreds of thousands of jobs it creates by requesting consultations with the governments responsible for the subsidy violations and until such time as an equitable resolution has been reached, freeze new routes for these parties into the U.S.”

Americans for Fair Skies is a grassroots coalition, established with the aim of restoring fairness to our Open Skies policies. They are asking the U.S. government to take action on what has been established as the largest trade violation in history. Last week, Americans for Fair Skies launched a new television ad, which can be viewed here, highlighting how the United Arab Emirates and Qatar are shredding Open Skies agreements they signed with the U.S. by providing their airlines more than $40 billion in subsidies.

Learn more at




americans4fairskies2015Americans for Fair Skies Applauds European Leadership to Combat Gulf Airline Subsides; Calls on U.S. Government to Act Now
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Coming Soon: More Subsidized Flights to America, U.S. Aviation Jobs Overseas

Coming Soon: More Subsidized Flights to America, U.S. Aviation Jobs Overseas

Emirates announces 10th daily flight to U.S., threatening U.S. airline jobs

Statement from Americans for Fair Skies on the announcement of service by Emirates Airways to Orlando International Airport (MCO) starting September 1, 2015:

“It kinda makes sense that Emirates would fly to Orlando, home of Disney World, because like Mickey Mouse, this airline is not real. It’s make believe. It’s not a company. What is not a fairy tale, however, is that Emirates is an arm of the Dubai government, located in the United Arab Emirates. But unlike the magic of Disney World, Emirates and the other two subsidized Gulf carriers, Qatar Airways and Etihad, are threatening U.S. aviation jobs and distorting the international marketplace.

“More than $40 billion in subsidies provided by the home governments of three Gulf airlines has allowed for the unprecedented and unwarranted expansion of the airlines into the U.S., dumping seat capacity into the U.S. and putting American jobs at risk. For every route from which the U.S. airlines are displaced, or forgo, to the subsidized competition from the airlines of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, 800 U.S. aviation jobs are lost. This has to end now.

“Americans for Fair Skies is a grassroots coalition, established with the aim of restoring fairness to our Open Skies policies. We are asking that the U.S. government to take action on what has been established as the largest trade violation in history by freezing new routes from Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar into the U.S. and entering into immediate consultations with the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to bring about an end to the subsidies to their national airlines.

“The United Arab Emirates and Qatar’s blatant violations of Open Skies policies represent predatory protectionism at its worst through the subsidization of their airlines. Last week, Americans for Fair Skies launched a new television ad, which can be viewed here, highlighting how the United Arab Emirates and Qatar are shredding Open Skies agreements they signed with the U.S. by providing their airlines more than $40 billion in subsidies.”

Learn more at


americans4fairskies2015Coming Soon: More Subsidized Flights to America, U.S. Aviation Jobs Overseas
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Open Skies clouded by subsidies

Since their inception in the early 1990s, Open Skies agreements have expanded international air travel and increased consumer choice. That was the intent when they were created, and that remains their goal today. As a result of their success, the United States has entered into over 100 of these agreements with countries around the world.

These are the facts those arguing in favor of the Gulf airlines keep presenting. And they are absolutely true. These, however, aren’t the only facts that need to be shared. Nor are they the facts that are in dispute. So, to present the challenges surrounding the subsidization of the Gulf airlines and their subsequent expansion into international markets as a black and white argument about being for or against Open Skies as a whole is not only reductive, its entirely inaccurate.

Yes, Open Skies have been a boon for the U.S. economy. Neither the legitimacy nor the benefit of these policies is in dispute. What is in dispute however, is the unnatural expansion and artificial market distortion that is happening within the Open Skies agreements the U.S. shares with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
A critical element of these Open Skies agreements is that they come with an expectation of fairness through competition in a private, open marketplace- one free of government subsidies. Yet, since 2004, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have violated the agreements established in Open Skies through over $40 billion in subsides of their national carriers. The result has been a systematic devastation of airlines across the globe through an artificial lowering of seat price and a resulting distortion of the market.

The irony is that the UAE and Qatar and their respective airlines, Etihad, Emirates, and Qatar Airways, have blustered loudly about consumer choice and competition whenever countries or the aviation industry have tried to stand up to such practices. When that didn’t work, they have switched to threats and scare tactics, such as forcing Canada out of Camp Mirage as a result of bilateral trade restrictions stemming from this subsidization. Now, the U.S., which presents the largest potential payoff for these airlines from a market share perspective, and the largest challenge to their expansion efforts as a result of the size of their national aviation infrastructure, is saying “enough.” And what is the response of these airlines? To threaten legal action. To threaten to cancel aircraft orders from Boeing, putting even more U.S. jobs at risk, if the U.S. takes action in response to their subsidies. To present themselves and their nations as great military allies of the U.S., which is a completely unrelated matter, mixing geopolitics with business.

This isn’t how allies, or true businesses, are expected to treat each other. But then again, these airlines are not true companies; they are in fact arms of their states.

For years, these airlines have explicitly, and on the record, stated that they were not subsidized. When these subsidies came to light, they argued that the world didn’t understand the difference between equity and subsidy (we do, by the way, as it is defined by the World Trade Organization), and finally, when they saw the evidence of subsidization in black and white, they again switched their argument to, “so what if we subsidize? U.S. airlines are just whining because they can’t compete.” Which of course, isn’t remotely the point of the argument. It’s impossible for a private entity to compete with the resources and access of an entire nation. This is why only private entities are allowed to compete in the marketplace established by Open Skies, not countries.

Americans for Fair Skies is asking the U.S. government to take action to restore fairness to our Open Skies policy by taking on the largest trade violation in history undertaken by the UAE and Qatar. We must restore Open Skies, reject the Gulf protectionism, and stand up for American workers.

Moak is a former Delta Boeing 767 pilot and former president of the Air Line Pilots Association, International., who is currently president of Americans for Fair Skies.

Originally published on TheHill.Com: Open Skies clouded by subsidies

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The Argument That US Carriers Should Stop Complaining About Middle East Carriers and Compete on Product Is Garbage

By Brett Snyder
Cranky Flier Blog- The fight between the US carriers and the Middle East carriers is just starting to ramp up, but people are quickly taking sides. As you saw in my lukewarm reception, I think there is merit to what the US carriers are saying but outside of revisiting fifth freedom rights, it’s hard to see how any other restrictions would make sense. Now that the cards are on the table, we’ll see different defenses formed to combat the accusations. While I’m sure some will be better than others, none will be worse than the argument that US carriers should just improve their product and win on that basis. That’s just not going to happen. Nor should it.

The Chairman and CEO of Emirates (and pretty much half of everything in Dubai) has said “offer the best to the passengers and people will fly with you.” Yeah, sure. If you offer me the best then I’ll take it. Wait, I don’t have to pay extra for it do I?

The answer with the Middle East carriers is no. They can keep their costs much lower, and they don’t have the same level of pressure to make a profit. Both Qatar and Etihad in particular will just get more money pumped in from the government. No problem.

These airlines can spend a lot more on things that people might like but won’t influence purchase decisions. So they spend the money and offer tickets for the same price or lower than what airlines offer today in the market. If you’re a passenger that sounds great.

But should American carriers “up their game”? Yes, to an extent, and they have, especially in the premium cabin. Look at what Delta has done by installing flat beds with direct aisle access in business class on its long haul fleet. Look at American doing the same thing. United has been quietly investing in everything from seats to upgrading meals and lounges. In coach there’s been investment as well, particularly by Delta. But these investments only make sense if passengers are going to pay for them. That does mean full flat beds up front are a necessity. Emirates still hasn’t even done that. But does it mean providing limos to every passenger and free hotels on overnight connections? No, it doesn’t.

The other issue, of course, is labor. Qatar’s CEO is incredibly outspoken about his anti-union stance, and he can do that because he lives in Qatar. He can fire people without cause and he can impose strict rules that govern their behavior even off the clock. He can really do whatever he wants in that regard. In the US, that simply can’t happen. It doesn’t matter if you’re anti or pro-union. The rules are the rules, and you can’t just fire people because they’re too old or too large or, incredibly, just too lazy to properly do the work. It’s not how things work here. The airlines might like more flexibility but they will never get anywhere near what can be done in the Middle East.

Could or should a US carrier become like an Etihad or Qatar? No. First of all, with the way labor rules work in the US, they’re just not going to be able to provide the same kind of service as foreign carriers. I mean, I guess they could if they paid a ton of money to get all the angry, disgruntled people to leave on a regular basis but that gets us to the larger issue. US carriers have to create a business that’s profitable (or at least tries to be). Costs are inherently higher for US carriers than they are for Middle Eastern carriers thanks to structural differences. And if costs aren’t low enough to make a profit, they can just get in line for another cash infusion in the Middle East. So for the US carriers to match what those carriers do means they’ll have to charge more. And while some people will always pay more for quality, they’re not going to pay the US carriers significantly more to get the same level of service that the Middle Eastern carriers can provide.

So US carriers are right to focus their investments in areas where people are going to be willing to pay for improvement. It’s not like they’re sitting still as the Middle East carriers might have you believe, but they’re not busy lighting money on fire to match a Middle Eastern product that they could never offer at a competitive fare. Nor should they.

This article was originally posted on: Cranky Flier: The Argument That US Carriers Should Stop Complaining About Middle East Carriers and Compete on Product Is Garbage

americans4fairskies2015The Argument That US Carriers Should Stop Complaining About Middle East Carriers and Compete on Product Is Garbage
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Editorial: Keep the skies open

The Detroit News March 14, 2015

Cheating by Gulf state airlines distorts the international air traffic market and placing U.S. carriers at a disadvantage

Free and fair trade demands that all parties engage in commerce on a level playing field. Or in the case of airlines, in level skies.

That’s the idea behind the Open Skies Agreements the United States has been negotiating with other countries since 1992. There are now more than 100 such trade pacts in place to assure that foreign carriers don’t use subsidies from their home governments to steal business from U.S.-based airlines.

And they’ve worked for the most part, allowing multiple players to expand air service in an efficient global marketplace. Passengers benefited from both competitive fares and increased travel options.

But the arrangement has hit some significant turbulence.

The United Arab Emirates and Qatar are ignoring the rules and channeling huge subsidies to carriers based in the Gulf, allowing them to cut fares below market rates and grab a greater share of passengers.

U.S. airlines are accusing state-owned Emirates, Etihad and Qatar airlines of taking more than $40 billion in government hand-outs, fueling a worldwide expansion of their reach.

The operating subsidies allow the Gulf airlines to cut fares below the level at which U.S. airlines can profitably fly. So passenger traffic is shifting to those foreign carriers, particularly on international routes servicing south Asia.

The Gulf airlines have 25 flights a day to the United States that then fly on to other parts of the world. And while that may not sound like such a large number, each international flight has a spin-off benefit of 1,000 jobs, the domestic airlines contend.

Very little of the traffic is generated in the home airports of the Gulf carriers. Rather, most of their passengers board the connecting flight in the U.S.

For passengers, fares may drop as the Gulf carriers fly at a loss to increase their market share. But ultimately, the number of competing flights will fall and prices for travelers will rise.

This is the equivalent of a state-owned foreign automaker dumping vehicles on the U.S. market at prices far below the real cost of production.

The Gulf carriers have been steadily adding capacity, distorting the marketplace. Their U.S. competitors also accuse them of creating vertically-integrated, wholly state-owned aviation sectors that include complex relationships between their governments, airlines, ground handlers and airports — all in violation of the Open Skies Agreements those countries signed.

Ultimately, such disregard for trade pacts will drive U.S. carriers out of certain international routes, costing jobs in this country.

The agreements signed with the Gulf states are very generous, placing few restrictions on their ability to serve the lucrative American market.

But they do demand that the service be based on honest trade practices.

The Obama administration can not allow the U.S. airline industry to be undermined by predatory, state-owned competitors.

It should demand that the Gulf states honor the Open Skies Agreements or risk losing access to U.S. Airports.

Originally published at DetroitNews.Com: Editorial: Keep the skies open

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Airline subsidies in the Gulf: Feeling the heat

By Gulliver

(The Economist)-ALLEGATIONS of unfair competition are nothing new for the Gulf’s carriers. The region’s big three airlines—Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways—have long been accused of receiving government subsidies by their rivals in Europe and America. But supporting evidence has been in short supply. That apparently changed yesterday, when a group of airlines disclosed details of “obvious and massive” Gulf-carrier subsidies totalling $42bn since 2004. The findings have been submitted to the American government in a 55-page dossier urging a re-think of Washington’s open-skies treaty with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It contends that the Gulf carriers—which compete with American rivals on international routes—should only enjoy unfettered access to America’s airports if they operate on a level playing field.

It is a familiar argument that already holds sway with policymakers in Europe. The Gulf’s rebuttal is equally familiar. Tim Clark, the boss of Emirates, maintains that the carrier he helped set up in 1985 only ever received $10m in seed capital. Its meteoric rise on the global stage, he insists, is down to a mixture of the Gulf’s geographical good fortune at the nexus of East and West, and the Dubai government’s pro-aviation policies. The American airlines which made the accusations, he says, are simply trying to hide behind protectionism.

This well-versed stance is now coming under renewed scrutiny by American officials, who will meet with Mr Clark in Washington in a fortnight. He must be concerned that some of the mud will stick. According to the Financial Times, the allegations against Emirates include Dubai’s assumption of a $2.4bn fuel-hedging loss, $2.3bn of savings from artificially low airport charges and $1.9bn of savings from Emirates’ non-unionised workforce. Mr Clark will of course deny that cheap labour and ground-handling constitute a government subsidy; to the contrary, he will say, they reflect the commercial savviness of his government. But the accusations levied against the other Gulf carriers are harder to dismiss. Qatar Airways, it is alleged, has received $7.7bn in interest-free loans from the Qatari government and $6.8bn in reduced debt-interest charges thanks to sovereign guarantees. Etihad is said to have received $6.3bn in capital injections, $4.6bn in interest-free loans with no repayment obligation, and $4.2bn in “additional committed subsidies” from Abu Dhabi.

Do equity transferrals, interest-free loans and debt guarantees constitute subsidies? Not according to Akbar Al Baker, the boss of Qatar Airways, who insists that the Qatari government is free to provide financial support to its airline just like any other shareholder.

But his argument is misleading. First, the sheer scale of equity apparently being provided to the Gulf carriers dwarfs what any privately owned airline could hope to secure for start-up capital. Second, debt guarantees are two different animals in the public and private sector. In the latter, they are provided when a shareholder believes there is little to no chance that the debt will be defaulted on; in the former, they are provided irrespective of the likelihood of repayment, effectively kicking the borrowings into the long grass. On both counts, the Gulf carriers enjoy clear financial advantages over their American and European rivals, affording them a safety net which permits them to operate unprofitable services in order to gain market share.

Transparency is another issue. Proponents of the Gulf model often note that airlines in America benefited from the Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection system after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This, they claim, amounted to a back-door subsidy, propping up the domestic sector while its debts and costs were trimmed. But that is an unfair comparison. Chapter 11 restructurings do not involve equity injections by the taxpayer. They are restructurings conducted under the watchful eye of an independent judiciary. By contrast, decisions about the organisation of Gulf-carrier balance sheets are taken behind closed doors, by dynastic rulers who have no accountability to their citizens. Unless Qatar and the UAE can demonstrate that their flag-carriers abide by competitive norms in the private sector, the American government is entitled to impose bilateral restrictions—just as most governments in Europe and the Middle East have done.

There is one final point that Gulliver finds pertinent. Gulf carriers are more proactive than most at currying favour with trade journalists. Their generosity to the media goes beyond complimentary flights for press conferences—perks that The Economist’s journalists are prohibited from accepting—and extends well into corporate hospitality. Once a journalist has enjoyed an evening in an executive box at the Emirates Stadium, for example, it becomes awkward to write anything negative about Dubai’s flag-carrier. Such conflicts of interest may well have influenced coverage of the Gulf subsidy row.

Originally published on Airline subsidies in the Gulf: Feeling the heat

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Now that Emirates Subsidies are Proven, Is Tim Clark Resigning Tomorrow?

Emirates CEO previously stated: “you prove a subsidy, I’ll resign the next day.”

Washington, DC – Today, evidentiary findings were released establishing more than $40 billion in subsidies from the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to their three state-subsidized airlines, including Emirates Airways. Specifically, Emirates Airways has received at least $6 billion in subsidies and other unfair government benefits since 2004, including $2.4 billion from government assumption of losses from fuel hedging and $2.2 billion from subsidized airport infrastructure. Emirates also received nearly a $2 billion benefit from government policies that artificially keep labor costs below market rates.

A statement by Emirates CEO, Tim Clark, from 2010 clearly established that he would resign if Emirates was found to be subsidized. He stated, “you prove a subsidy and I will resign the next day’.” Today, Emirates was proven to be subsidized. And tomorrow is the “next day” after today. The question therefore is: will Tim Clark keep his word and resign tomorrow?

Captain Lee Moak, Americans for Fair Skies President, stated the following: “We await word on Mr. Clark’s resignation. The billions of dollars in government subsidies from the government’s assumption of fuel hedging losses and subsidized airport charges violate the WTO standard of a subsidy, and violate the principles of Open Skies. Emirates has not played by the rules for at least a decade, despite claims to the contrary, and today their underhanded tactics and mistruths have been exposed.”

Also exposed in the release of the white paper today: Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways have received over $17 billion each from their respective governments in subsidies. Said Moak, “We also wonder if Etihad CEO James Hogan and Qatar Airways CEO Al Akbar are now also considering resignations after making numerous public claims, which we now know beyond a reasonable doubt were untrue, that their airlines were not government subsidized.”

Americans for Fair Skies, a grassroots coalition established to restore fairness to our Open Skies policies, is asking the U.S. government to take action on what has been established as the largest trade violation in history. The United Arab Emirates and Qatar are engaged in predatory protectionism at its worst, subsidizing their airlines and shredding Open Skies agreements they signed.

Said Moak: “The evidence is clear. Facts are facts. Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar are all receiving subsidies from their governments in violation of the principles of Open Skies. They have not been truthful for years about these subsidies, attempting to hide them in their quest to steal passengers from U.S. airlines, undercutting American jobs. Enough is enough. The time for action is now.”


americans4fairskies2015Now that Emirates Subsidies are Proven, Is Tim Clark Resigning Tomorrow?
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Note to Mid-East Airlines: You Have Some Questions to Answer

By Ted Reed

(Forbes)- On Thursday, Emirates will stage a Herald Square celebration of its fourth daily flight to Kennedy International Airport. The airline will invite the public to play a tic-tac-toe-like game called Connect 4, offering two business class tickets to any of its destinations as a prize.

Certainly long famous-Herald Square is a good place to attract attention, even if the great newspaper that inspired its name is long since gone.

But Emirates will find increasingly find itself in the spotlight in coming weeks, no matter whether it stages events in midtown Manhattan, now that the three global U.S. airlines – American, Delta and United – have begun to battle the three Gulf carriers – Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways – over whether massive subsidies from Middle East governments constitute violations of Open Skies agreements.

So far, the U.S. carriers have issued a confidential report detailing the $40 million in subsidies, along with the efforts to cover them up. The CEOs of the three carriers have met with Anthony Foxx, the secretary of transportation. Lee Moak, former president of the Air Line Pilots Association, has created a new organization, Americans for Fair Skies, to lobby for change. Delta CEO Richard Anderson went on CNN to voice concern about the subsidies, although he was temporarily sidetracked by tying the issue to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

On Friday, American CEO Doug Parker laid out the U.S. carriers’ case in an employee magazine, while Laura Glading, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents 25,000 American flight attendants, commented in an e-mail to members on the weak labor protections at the Mid-East carriers, particularly Qatar.

Also last week, in an interview, Moak discussed the deterioration of the relationship between Canada and the United Arab Emirates, home of Emirates and Etihad Airways, after Canada declined to allow more flights to Toronto by the two carriers in 2010. The UAE subsequently declined to extend an agreement for Canada to use a military base in Dubai as its troops fought in Afghanistan.

As discussions continued, Peter MacKay, Canada’s minister of National Defense, announced at a news conference in Afghanistan that Canadian troops would vacate the base, according to Wikipedia. Hours later, as MacKay and other high-ranking Canadian officials were flying back to Canada, the UAE denied landing rights and forced a rerouting to Europe, Wikipedia said.

Later, because of the dispute, the UAE lobbied against Canada’s 2010 bid to join the United Nations Security Council.

“What you find there is that if these countries don’t get their way, they take their ball and go home,” Moak said. “When Canada said there was no need for more seats (between the two countries), the Emirates got angry and said ‘Pull all your troops out of Camp Mirage.’ The message was ‘If we don’t get our way, we will punish you.”

It is a threatening approach for a country that is seeking to build an airport in Dubai that could one day accommodate 240 million passengers annually, a large chunk of the world’s international aviation business, and Moak says it underscores vastly different approaches to commercial aviation.

In the United States, Moak said, “we have a democracy, a president and free enterprise,” while “they have a dictatorship, a sheik and subsidized airlines.”

Meanwhile, Glading raised questions about working conditions for flight attendants at the Gulf carriers. While most U.S. airline employees are protected by union contracts, Qatar and the UAE prohibit collective bargaining, Moreover, according to Glading’s message to members, at Qatar Airways “flight attendants must ask permission to marry or to have children.

Also, Glading said, “They live in locked and closely monitored dorms. They sign employment contracts but if for any reason they cannot complete them, i.e. they no longer meet appearance standards, they are forced to pay back the money they earned. If necessary, this requires working for free in other capacities.”

In a prepared statement, Rossen Dimitrov, Qatar senior vice president/customer experience, denied that the carrier dismisses married or pregnant flight attendants.

“Qatar Airways flight attendants do not have to be, or remain single,” Dimitrov said. “Many of our cabin crew are in fact married. The employment contracts simply use the term ‘single status’ which is a common term in many Gulf companies’ contracts.” The term refers to being single “for benefits/housing purposes,” he said.

Additionally, Dimitrov said, “cabin crew do not have to ask permission before marrying,” but “for health and safety reasons” they do have to notify the carrier when they become pregnant.’ If they cannot fly due to pregnancy or other reasons, they “are assisted with finding suitable ground positions.”

We don’t think the heavily unionized airline industry has finished talking about the working conditions at the Mid-East carriers. And the U.S. public, for all of its complaints about service levels on U.S. airlines, may not like what it hears about those conditions.

Originally published on Note to Mid-East Airlines: You Have Some Questions to Answer

americans4fairskies2015Note to Mid-East Airlines: You Have Some Questions to Answer
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