Majority of Lawmakers Call on Trump to Crack Down on Gulf Air Carriers

A majority of lawmakers in Congress wants President Trump to crack down on Persian Gulf airlines that receive billions of dollars in subsidies from their governments.

In a series of letters to the administration, a total of 300 members have now called on the White House to address what they see as violations in international Open Skies agreements by Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates.

The U.S. aviation industry has long expressed frustration that Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have funneled more than $50 billion in subsidies into their state-run airlines — a move they argue that has created unfair competition and is threatening U.S. jobs.

“The consensus in Congress is overwhelming — the massive Gulf carrier subsidies are hurting U.S. jobs, and our government cannot let these foreign trade cheaters threaten an entire American industry,” Jill Zuckman, chief spokesperson for the Partnership for Open and Fair Skies, said in a statement Friday.

“With 300 members of Congress speaking out, we’re optimistic that the Trump administration will see that this issue unites Americans across the country and the political spectrum.”

Trump has come under increasing pressure from the powerful airline industry and a growing chorus of lawmakers to rework international aviation agreements with the Gulf countries.

But the administration is also balancing voices on the other side of the debate that want to keep the current aviation agreements in place. Supporters of the Gulf carriers argue that the new routes have given flyers more choices, driven down prices and encouraged more air travel.

“These policies further enable air service that connects America to underserved regions of the world where practically no competition exists,” Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said in a statement this summer. “America should grow its market share of inbound travel from those willing to provide it.”