The CEOs of three U.S. carriers are disappointed the government has not frozen the Gulf carriers’ U.S. expansion, and are renewing their call that Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways not be allowed to add new flights to the country until the case over alleged subsidies is resolved.

Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and United Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek wrote to the secretaries of State, Commerce and Transportation, expressing alarm that the Gulf carriers have added new flights to the U.S. in the 10 weeks since they first asked the government to investigate the subsidies case. 

“In recent weeks, Emirates has announced new service from Dubai to Orlando (effective September 1), added a second daily flight from Dubai to Boston (effective October 1) and from Dubai to Seattle (effective July 7), and announced that it will upgauge its Milan-New York flight to a massive A380 (effective June 1),” the three CEOs wrote in the letter. “Beyond the announced new service, we understand that one or more Gulf carriers have contacted three additional U.S. airports about starting new flights from the Gulf. These aggressive actions make requesting a freeze pending resolution even more urgent, because with every new U.S. flight, the Gulf carriers not only harm U.S. airlines and workers but also make reaching a negotiated solution more difficult.”

Specifically, Anderson, Smisek and Parker want capacity frozen at the level it was on Jan. 28, when they first asked the cabinet secretaries to investigate the subsidies issue. The Gulf carriers are “taking advantage of this delay” to “gain even more market share before the U.S. government acts,” they said.

The U.S. government said it would study the issue. The open skies deals allow for the government to engage in consultations with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), but the three U.S. CEOs have asked for a capacity freeze until those consultations—which have not yet begun—conclude. This would abrogate the open skies deals, supporters of the Gulf carriers’ rights to serve the U.S. have said (Aviation Daily, April 13).

The U.S. carriers, together with labor groups and an advocacy group called the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, stand behind a report, based on Emirates’, Etihad’s and Qatar’s financial filings to regulators abroad, that says the three Gulf carriers have benefited from more than $40 billion in subsidies (Aviation Daily, March 17). The CEOs have asked the U.S. government to demand the release of the Gulf carriers’ audited financial statements.

“The information in the financial records already in the possession of the U.S. government provide indisputable proof that Qatar and the UAE are funneling massive amounts of money into their state-owned airlines in a calculated effort to undermine open skies policy and any semblance of fair competition,” Partnership for Open & Fair Skies spokeswoman Jill Zuckman said. “We believe that the $42 billion in subsidies and other unfair state benefits that our investigation uncovered is just the tip of the iceberg.”