Trump administration defers formal action in Gulf carrier flap

The Trump administration will not take punitive action against the UAE and Qatar for alleged Open Skies violations, though it is leaving the door open for such actions down the road, according to published reports.

U.S. airline representatives sat this week with State Department officials to discuss claims that Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways each benefit from billions in government subsidies, according to The Hill. The carriers consistently refute those claims. The administration is continuing informal talks with the two Gulf nations rather than opening formal consultations on Open Skies agreements, The Hill indicated.

The U.S. Travel Association also indicated the administration has rejected a request by the U.S. carriers to freeze new flights from Qatar and the UAE. "They did not prove a violation of Open Skies agreements by Gulf carriers and did not prove any economic harm from the status quo," U.S. Travel president and CEO Roger Dow said. "The only thing that's been proven is that other sectors would be harmed by the action they were requesting."

The administration has not ruled out more substantive action if it is not satisfied with the results of the informal talks, however. Reuters reported that a White House memo from the fall indicated it planned to "seek disciplines on subsidies, transparency and state-owned enterprise," including possible withdrawal from Open Skies agreements. U.S. President Donald Trump himself made a vague reference of "subsidized competition" against U.S. carriers when he met with top airline executives earlier this year.

Jill Zuckman, a spokesperson for the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies--a coalition that includes American Airlines, Delta and United Airlines, along with several airline employee associations--said, "We applaud the Trump administration for taking action to level the playing field."

Source: Business Travel News
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