The largest three U.S. passenger airliners are lobbying the government to back out of the Open Skies agreements, citing opposition to what their leadership sees as federal subsidies going to foreign carriers.
Open Skies agreements have allowed for more flying options for consumers by “eliminating government interference in the commercial decisions of air carriers about routes, capacity, and pricing, freeing carriers to provide more affordable, convenient, and efficient air service for consumers,” according to the U.S. Department of State.
Proponents claim these enabled international carriers such as Emirates, Etihad Airlines and Qatar Airways to thrive in an international market, which in turn means more choices at more affordable prices for customers.
Delta, American and United airlines argue these are subsidies, which allow for unfair competition. The endgame for the big three appears to be cutting down on what they say are an unfair advantage for foreign airlines and foreign governments, which subsidize some of the airlines’ costs.
WikiLeaks, a nonprofit organization designed to expose government secrets, recently released evidence that the big three have received more than $150 billion in government subsidies themselves since 1919.
The U.S. Travel Association, an advocate of the Open Skies agreements, argue the new revelation demonstrates the big three’s hypocrisy, and taking it a step further, says this is proof that Delta, American and United are in the midst of multi-million dollar lobbying effort to push the government to further limit the competition for air passengers.
“This exposes the fiction that the U.S. airline cartel’s furious and expensive assault on Open Skies is about subsidies,” says Jonathan Grella, U.S. Travel Association executive vice president for public affairs. “We hope there is something else to dissuade us from by far the most likely conclusion: the Big Three airlines hate competition, and rather than cope with it in the marketplace they will undertake extreme means to stamp it out politically.”
While this new information is embarrassing for Open Skies opponents, Grella knows this won’t end the debate.
“The Big Three airlines have shown a lot of determination and resources, so we’re resigned to the fact they’ll keep this up, and we’re curious to see what their next whopper is going to be,” he says.