Voices for Open Skies, a new website by the U.S. Travel Association, does an incredible job of weaving a false narrative into the fabric of an otherwise great idea.
The website’s home page opens with photos of a restaurant worker and a manufacturing worker and boldly proclaims “Open Skies agreements promote travel to our U.S. communities, supporting jobs in small businesses that pay good wages.” We completely agree! So far, so good. Americans for Fair Skies is fully supportive of the Open Skies framework, and we are very happy that this new website celebrates the incredible achievements of it…
…until the falsities and narrow special interests slip into the narrative. Just scrolling down a few inches makes it very clear that this new site, under the guise of celebrating Open Skies, is just propaganda for promoting the continued violation of Open Skies by allowing Etihad, Emirates, and Qatar Airways to expand, unchecked, into the U.S., fueled by massive state subsidies. These subsidies, unlike this new website, are well documented.
So, we’ve taken take this website page by page with the aim of educating you on the duplicity present:
Under the “Open Skies Work” tab, we can see the different ways that our Open Skies Agreements have benefitted the American economy, travelers, and the U.S. airline industry. Great! No disagreement there. As we’ve said repeatedly, the Open Skies framework has done incredible things for the United States. But wait… if you look a little closer, every subheading is filled with glorified (and uncited) information on how much the three Gulf carriers alone have benefitted the United States. It seems U.S. Travel’s aim is to conflate the success of our Open Skies agreements with the subsidization of the Gulf Carriers. They insinuate that this issue is a binary one: you either support the subsidies going to Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways or you believe in scrapping the Open Skies framework all together.
This is false.
The Open Skies framework has been used to build and foster international agreements between the U.S. and more than 120 countries. It is not in the best interest of American consumers, workers, or the American economy to let two nations – the State of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – exploit this framework for their own benefit. The harm inflicted on the United States by the Gulf carrier’s 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. This fact is missing from U.S. Travel’s new website.
Moving deeper into the website, we come to the “Jobs Impact” segment, where U.S. Travel doesn’t bother to present any real information on the benefits of Open Skies broadly – neglecting to mention the more than 120 other agreements that benefit the U.S. – and instead focuses on the cities where the three Gulf carriers fly into the U.S. and how those subsidized routes impact those areas. As you might expect, not a single mention of the U.S. job losses their subsidized growth and seat dumping creates, however. But then again why would there be on a site meant to hide the realities of the negative impacts of the violations of Open Skies being perpetuated by the United Arab Emirates and Qatar? In a Gulf carrier propaganda site, it doesn’t really make sense to include objective fact, right? Or to talk about any of the other Open Skies agreements that are in fact working well for Americans? Nope. The focus of “Open Skies” on this website is just on Qatar and the UAE, which is actually quite unfortunate and undermines the website’s credibility.
Finally, in their “U.S. Business Support” section, U.S. Travel highlights the support of several different organizations supporting Open Skies broadly. The quotes are largely generic, and supportive of the broader goals and objectives of Open Skies agreements, many of which are similar to statements made by Americans for Fair Skies in support of the general principles of Open Skies. Noticeably absent from the list are any organizations supporting airline workers or airlines that don’t directly benefit from Gulf airline subsidization or the harm caused to their competitors in the U.S. airline industry.
Voices for Open Skies makes a mockery of defending the Open Skies framework. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates took a system that works to grow the economy, travel, and international cooperation and have exploited it with massive subsidies aimed at undermining competition and distorting the marketplace, thereby harming U.S. workers. By supporting the Gulf nations’ violations of our Open Skies Agreements, organizations such as the U.S. Travel Association and others paid to speak on behalf of the Gulf carriers like the Business Travel Coalition are, in fact, undermining the very foundation of the Open Skies framework.
Let’s be clear: Americans for Fair Skies is now, and has always been, a strong supporter of Open Skies. We also believe that when two countries are allowed to exploit our trade agreements and as a result harm the American people, then the entire system is threatened. We are asking for the U.S. government to hold all parties accountable- if Open Skies is going to work, everyone has to play by the rules. If the Gulf carriers thought they could compete on a level playing field, do you think they’d be fighting so hard to continue undermining their competition and exploiting their trade agreements?
We didn’t think so.
Want to learn more and get involved? You can take action at fairskies.org.