U.S. President Donald Trump has told the CEOs of the “big three” U.S. airlines - American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airline - either to file a complaint under the International Air Transportation Fair Competitive Practices Act of 1974 (IATFCPA), or stop their relentless, multi-million dollar lobbying campaign against Gulf carrier competitors such as Emirates Airline.
In an op-ed in trade publication Air Transport World, Emirates president Tim Clark welcomed the decision and accused the Big Three of pursuing "their four-and-a-half-year, multi-million dollar
lobbying campaign to try to limit consumer choice and marketplace competition, instead of following an established 180-day process (through IATFCPA).”
“They even went so far as publicly refusing to file an IATFCPA complaint."
Air Italy triggered latest dispute
The meeting in the Oval Office last month had been sought by the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies the lobbying coalition that represents the three U.S. airlines, to seek support from Trump to halt what was described as "illegal fifth freedom” flights to the U.S. by Milan-based Air Italy in which Qatar Airways holds a 49% stake.
Apart from American CEO Doug Parker and United CEO Oscar Munoz and a representative of Delta Air Lines - because the CEO Ed Bastian of Delta couldn't attend - the meeting was also attended by CEO's of FedEx, Atlas Air, JetBlue and the CEO of Qatar Airways Akbar Al Baker.
Commercial harm suffered remains speculative
Other attendees included acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, national security adviser John Bolton, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow and trade adviser Peter Navarro.
In his op-ed, the Emirates President noted that "after more than 1,600 days and tens of millions of shareholder dollars wasted, they are where they didn’t want to be. President Trump’s message was clear: the big three need finally to begin the customary IATFCPA review, which they have been desperately avoiding."
Clark also suggested that the Big Three had been averse to using IATFCPA because in order to prevail, "they must show they have suffered commercial harm as a result of the alleged unfair competitive conduct. Having collectively earned more than US$40 billion in profits since starting their campaign in January 2015, it is extremely difficult to do so."
Many new jobs created
"Similarly," Clark continued, "U.S. DOT Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) data directly contradicts the other Big Three claim that Gulf carrier competition is an existential threat to U.S. airline jobs. BTS data shows the employee count at Delta, American and United has grown 9,516 (11.8%), 9,347 (9.5%) and 6,582 (7.8%), respectively, between 2015 and 2019."
Clark concluded that, as a result of these data, "the Big Three know an IATFCPA complaint will most likely be dismissed."
Clark ended his op-ed by saying that he hoped this episode "ends an unfortunate chapter in international aviation and ushers in a new era of sustained competition and consumer choice."
Nol van Fenema
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