Earlier this week, at an aviation industry luncheon in Washington, DC, JetBlue’s CEO, Robin Hayes, made headlines with some accusations that well, remaining polite, were dishonest.
Mr. Hayes made the argument that those of us here in the U.S. fighting against the violations of Open Skies by the United Arab Emirates and State of Qatar had forged this campaign on emotions instead of evidence, because the evidence of these violations wasn’t there to support our argument.
He could not be more wrong (and of course, he knows that, but was doing his best PR spin with the audience).
The evidence of the Open Skies violations by the UAE and Qatar is overwhelming. It is public. And it is continuing to build.
The State of Qatar and the UAE have used this $50 billion in subsidies to support their three state-owned airlines, Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Etihad Airways (often referred to collectively as the ME3), who have in turn used the funds to expand unchecked across the globe and into the United States. Their expansion has come with no regard to market demand, flooding routes with excess capacity while artificially lowering prices with the specific aim of driving competitors out of the international marketplace.
Any rational, objective observer would agree that the evidence to support the subsidy claim is not only sufficient, it is convincing.
The subsidies and their resulting expansion alone, however, are not our only objection. What Mr. Hayes missed, or conveniently left out of his remarks, is that this predatory expansion has distorted the international aviation marketplace, thereby depriving U.S. air carriers the ability to compete equally and fairly, as Open Skies agreements demand.
Americans for Fair Skies, as we’ve repeatedly made clear, is in favor of U.S. Open Skies policy. At this time, more than 100 other Open Skies agreements are working well for the U.S. and are supported by Americans for Fair Skies. And to safeguard this Open Skies, all agreements must be enforced. The two nations with agreements that are convincingly found to be in violation must be held accountable.
Let’s be clear about why Mr. Hayes would make these less than truthful claims.
JetBlue doesn’t operate routes overseen by the two Open Skies agreements being violated. So, one might wonder why they have been such vocal supporters of airlines whose specific goals are to drive (U.S.) competitors employing hundreds of thousands of (American) workers out of business?
The answer is simple. Money. Qatar and the UAE’s exploitation of Open Skies on behalf of their airlines benefits JetBlue’s bottom line as well. And this, Mr. Hayes doesn’t dispute.
JetBlue has a strong financial relationship with one of the carriers in particular- Emirates. JetBlue carries Emirates passengers through to their final destinations within the U.S. on domestic routes. Mr. Hayes bragged about such routes during his remarks. Emirates also operates a JetBlue GSA awarded contract route between Washington, D.C. and Dubai, as JetBlue doesn’t own the aircraft that would allow them to operate this route on their own. This is a flight that was taken away from a U.S. carrier that was operating the route itself on its own aircraft, employing U.S. workers. Finally, if the ME3’s practices in and of themselves have the specific aim of hurting JetBlue’s larger, more established U.S. competitors? Well that’s just the icing on the cake for Mr. Hayes.
But back to Robin Hayes’ argument that this is about emotion instead of evidence. As we’ve said, that’s not right. But, Mr. Hayes’ point about emotions isn’t actually entirely wrong either.
BECAUSE WE ARE MAD. AND YOU SHOULD BE TOO.
Mr. Hayes tries to make it sound like these exploitations of Open Skies are what is in the long-term interest of American consumers. But it’s not. These two country’s violations of their trade agreements not only threaten an industry that makes up 6% of the U.S. economy, but is also responsible for the creation of hundreds of thousands of American jobs. Not to mention that such violations threaten the very foundation of the Open Skies framework- throwing the other 117 existing Open Skies agreements we hold with nations around the world into jeopardy.
As President Trump often argues, a trade agreement is only worth having if it is a benefit to the American people. Our Open Skies Agreements with the State of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates do not meet that requirement anymore and action is required by the U.S. government to preserve and defend our aviation trade agreements.
To learn more and get involved by taking action, visit us at fairskies.org.