Business leaders see inaction as a sign White House won’t move on legacy airlines’ protests.
The US-UAE Business Council thinks the Open Skies debate could be over, because no moves have been made to change or amend the current agreements between the United States and key Middle Eastern nations. In an interview with the United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based newspaper The National, the president of the council said he believed the situation to be “at a good place.”
“The UAE ambassador and his team, as well as key US firms, have done a really good job of informing the Trump administration of the importance of [maintaining Open Skies agreements between the two countries],” Danny Sebright, president of the US-UAE Business Council, told The National. “Saying that, it is still a critically important issue, and we have work to do to prevent legislative action that is not supported by the Trump administration.”
The issue first came to light in 2015, when the three major American legacy carriers – American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines – accused the “Middle East Three” – Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways – of accepting billions of dollars in subsidies to fuel their growth. In a recent episode, The Partnership for Fair and Open Skies, a consortium of organizations petitioning for change, accused the Qatari government of reinvesting funds into Qatar Airways as a subsidy from a Reuters report.
The US-UAE Business Council argues that Open Skies has nothing to do with the issue of accepting subsidies, even though the Middle East Three claim they have not illegally accepted money. Instead, Sebright claims the issue is the legacy carriers’ method of changing policy.
When the U.S. Senate passed the controversial tax overhaul bill the evening of December 1, 2017, it advanced without a clause removing tax exemption for foreign airlines. The Business Council believes this could be a sign that the Open Skies debate is coming to an end.