Antitrust officials of the U.S. Justice Department (DoJ) have warned of higher fares and fewer choices for consumers should the Obama administration block new flights by Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, a Reuters report said, quoting unnamed sources.
The warning by the DoJ officials follows earlier demands by U.S. airlines - American, Delta and United - that Washington limits flights of the three Middle Eastern rivals to the United
The U.S. airlines, and their unions, allege that the Gulf carriers have received US$42 billion in subsidies from their home governments over the past decade, which the U.S. airlines claim violates the Open Skies agreements the U.S. has signed with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The Gulf carriers deny that they are subsidised.
DoJ is not directly involved in the decision
According to the Reuters report, this marks the first time a U.S. agency is known to have voiced reservations about the U.S. airlines' demands.
The U.S. departments of transportation, state and commerce have been reviewing the allegations. A list of policy options and their consequences is being prepared for the departments' senior officials, with no deadline for a decision. While the Reuters report notes that the Justice Department is not directly involved in the review, DoJ has volunteered analysis and answered questions from the other departments.
The Gulf airlines currently operate around 200 flights per week to 12 U.S. cities, but have filed requests for frequency increases and additional points in the U.S.
Nol van Fenema