US open skies forum unlikely to close any time soon
The US department of transportation said there was no deadline for responses to stakeholders seeking to comment on the open skies row between US and Arabian Gulf carriers.
Instead, it will keep a joint docket on open skies policies open to allow all stakeholders to express their opinion on the topic.
The US departments of state, commerce and transportation last month set up a docket on regulations.gov, providing an open forum to receive feedback from stakeholders before any decision is made over claims by US airlines that Gulf carriers are in violation of open skies agreements.
“There are no deadlines for submissions and we do not expect to close the joint docket in the foreseeable future,” said the department of transportation. “We do, however, encourage submissions as soon as practicable, to promote a robust dialogue among stakeholders and provide the US government sufficient time to evaluate the information. No decisions have been made on next steps.” The fact-finding initiative followed lobbying by the biggest three airlines in the United States – Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines – and their unions, who want the administration of the president, Barack Obama, to prevent Gulf carriers from adding extra routes to the US and review the open skies deal with Gulf governments.
The three US carriers and several US-based unions have claimed that Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates had between them received more than US$42 billion in state subsidies. Etihad has hit back at its US rivals with a report saying North America’s big three carriers netted more than $70bn in government and court-sanctioned benefits over the past 15 years.
“The department is carefully reviewing claims by US carriers that Gulf carriers are benefiting from government subsidies that are distorting the market,” said the department of transportation.
“The US government takes seriously the competition concerns raised by some of our airlines and will thoroughly review them, however we remain committed to the open skies policy that has greatly benefited the travelling public, the US aviation industry, American cities and the broader US economy through increased travel and trade, and job growth.”
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