On Thursday, President Donald Trump will meet with the CEOs of the top U.S. airlines and one issue is sure to be a divisive force during the meeting. That issue is what will be done about three Middle East based airlines – Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways.
Over the last 15 years, the three cash rich carriers based in the Middle East have clawed their way to the front of the global airline market.
Of recent, the expansion of the three has created a direct competition with the trio of U.S. top airlines American, United and Delta.
The three legacy carriers based in the U.S. allege that the growth by the Middle East airlines is not fair since it comes via government subsidies and their steady growth in the U.S. puts aviation stops in the U.S. at risk.
An organization known as Partnership for Fair and Open Skies speaks on behalf of the three U.S. airlines and says the Middle East airlines are in violation of the agreement for Open Skies that govern travel between the United States and a number of countries around the globe.
Because of that, the U.S. airlines will likely be petitioning Trump’s administration to have those treaties renegotiated.
In January, one of the Middle East airline, Emirates, announced it would start a new route between Athens, Greece and Newark, New Jersey. The U.S. airlines’ response was swift and harsh.
By violating its agreement of Open Skies with the U.S. at the beginning of the new Trump administration, Emirates has thrown down the gauntlet, said a spokesperson from Open and Fair Skies.
The spokesperson added that the organization looks forward to working with Trump to enforce the agreement and to protect jobs in America, which is something the previous White House administration did not.
However, there are other groups of companies in the U.S. that are part of the debate and side with the carriers from the Middle East. That group known as U.S. Airlines for Open Skies includes Hawaiian, JetBlue and cargo haulers FedEx and Atlas.
They say that the fight against the Middle East carriers is not all airlines in the U.S. but a small group of the larger airlines seeking to restrict the competition against interests of other airlines in the U.S., the U.S. tourism industry and consumers.
They worry putting restrictions on foreign airlines could cause problems for U.S. airline in foreign countries, which could cause loss of passenger counts and in the end profits.