Key private sector leaders are urging the Obama administration to resist changes to the Open Skies international aviation treaties—including the CEOs of Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and JetBlue Airways, whose industry partners American, Delta and United are leading the charge to tamper with the agreements.
Those leaders joined the heads of 21 other major corporations and industry associations on a letter sent by the U.S. Travel Association to Secretaries John Kerry, Penny Pritzker and Anthony Foxx—the chiefs of the three Cabinet agencies hearing an appeal by the Big 3 airlines to break Open Skies agreements with two countries.
The Big Three have petitioned the U.S. government for a “freeze” in air service for carriers hailing from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar—notoriously strong competitors in terms of service and value—and a reevaluation of those Open Skies agreements. Such a “freeze” in itself is a violation of Open Skies, which guarantees an aviation marketplace free from government meddling in aviation routes and capacity. The Big Three’s documents also offer a blueprint for government regulation of the routes serviced by those carriers once their Open Skies agreements are terminated.
U.S. Travel has vehemently opposed changes to Open Skies on the grounds that such a move would gravely harm airline competition, travelers and the overall U.S. economy, as well as imperil other Open Skies treaties and U.S. international agreements in general.
Along with the Big Three, the carrier signers of the U.S. Travel letter—including the cargo carrier FedEx—are members of the powerful Washington lobby group Airlines for America, which has publicly taken a neutral stance on Open Skies.
“I wake up every morning alarmed and sad that the Big Three have staked out this position on Open Skies,” said U.S. Travel President and CEO Roger Dow. “Even if I tried hard I couldn’t think of a policy change that would be as utterly terrible for the economy, jobs and consumers. We’d rather be working with airlines to enhance the flying experience for travelers and get more people booking trips, but instead we have to spend time and energy opposing them on this self-interested maneuver that just makes no sense at all.
“I’d like to thank my fellow CEOs for speaking out in favor of Open Skies in the face of an incredibly aggressive arm-twisting campaign by the Big Three.”
Read the full letter and the list of corporate signatories here.