The US Open Skies debate.

 
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Open Skies agreements are bilateral, and sometimes multilateral, agreements negotiated between countries to provide rights for airlines to offer international passenger and cargo services. Over the last 25 years, the US has entered into Open Skies agreements with 120 countries. These agreements are considered pro-consumer, pro-competition, and pro-growth.

According to the US State Department, Open Skies "expand international passenger and cargo flights by eliminating government interference in commercial airline decisions about routes, capacity, and pricing, so airlines can provide more affordable, convenient, and efficient air service to consumers, promoting increased travel and trade, and spurring high-quality job creation and economic growth. Open Skies agreements expand cooperative marketing opportunities between airlines, liberalize charter regulations, improve flexibility for airline operations, and commit both governments to high standards of safety and security. They also facilitate countless new cultural links worldwide."

Recently, there has been a call by some US mainline carriers and other industry groups for the US government to enforce its Open Skies agreements by working with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar to phase out subsidies they provide to their airlines in order to ensure a level playing field for US carriers. This has stirred up strong reactions in the industry, including reactions from those who say this could jeopardize the entire network of Open Skies agreements and undercut the US airline industry, and ultimately affect the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) program, which provides mobility resources and capacity to the Department of Defense during contingencies and national emergencies.

POINT

From the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies

The US airlines and labor unions that formed the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies are fighting to restore a level playing field for the American airline industry. Over the last 10 years, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have provided more than $50 billion in subsidies and other unfair benefits to their state-owned carriers--Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways--in violation of our Open Skies agreements. These massive government subsidies harm not only the US airline industry and its workers, but the US economy and national security as well.

Protecting the health of the aviation sector, a critical component of our country's infrastructure system, is important to our national security strategy. America's commercial aviation network--a network that moves people, food, water, medicines, fuel and other commodities vital to our health, safety, and economic well-being--is a strategic, critical infrastructure asset, complementing and supporting other essential assets such as electrical grids, dams, hospitals, rail lines and utilities. In 1998, the Clinton Administration issued Presidential Decision Directive 63, which stressed the importance of protecting the aviation sector as a key component of the country's critical infrastructure. In the aftermath of the attacks on 9/11, the Bush Administration took additional steps to further enhance policies to protect all national critical infrastructure components, including the transportation sector. External harm to the US carriers in the form of unfairly subsidized and unprofitable routes from Gulf airlines weakens national security by threatening to remove flights and destinations that are vital to maintaining this essential transportation network.

Gulf carriers are expanding at an exponential rate that far exceeds the demand for...

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