It’s interesting how you can look at the same thing in different ways, just take airplanes: Many people will look at a commercial aircraft and focus on the jet engines. I look at airplanes and see economic engines. Together, American Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines support over 1.2 million American jobs. Steady skilled work at airlines are the type of jobs that nearly every politician claims they want to support and promote—jobs that, at this very moment, are under attack.
For over a decade, two Gulf nations, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, have funneled over $50 billion to their state-owned airlines, Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways. These massive subsidies violate “Open Skies” agreements—the trade deals that allow international aviation to freely and fairly operate without red tape and government interference. But rule-breaking subsidies provided by these nations are the very definition of government interference in the marketplace. These subsidies are a thumb on the scale that unfairly shifts the balance of what should be fair competition. Allowing Gulf carriers to expand where they want, without any regard for the economic realities under which real American businesses must function, is a complete disregard for the impact on American workers and their families.
Aviation is a resilient industry, but it is not without risks. We’ve made it past hurdles including great economic downturns and the post-9/11 disastrous slump in travel, but it’s simply not possible for a fair-playing American business to compete when faced with this vast trade cheating, financed by foreign government subsidies. If it continues, American carriers will be unable to compete and will be forced to cut routes and reduce service. If this happens, it will be aviation workers and the communities where they live that will suffer.
Economists estimate that each daily round-trip international flight cut due to Gulf airline cheating costs 1,500 American jobs. And it’s not just international flights that are at risk. Our aviation industry operates in a hub-and-spoke system that gives passengers in small, medium and large communities across the country access to a multitude of destinations. This system relies on the passengers that fly to hub cities from smaller airports to take a longer flight outside of the country. If these international flights are lost to foreign carriers, U.S. airlines could be forced to cut services to their smaller local communities, resulting in further loss of jobs for American workers.
Aviation economics is a complicated topic, and there are scores of documents proving the Gulf carrier subsidies and outlining the threat of this kind of rule breaking. But at its heart, this issue is simple: Foreign businesses are breaking trade deals with the United States with violations that force out American businesses and threaten 1.2 million American jobs. That is unacceptable, and if elected leaders are truly committed to putting “America First,” valuing middle-class jobs and ensuring American businesses have the opportunity to compete and succeed, they will put a stop to it.