The US travel community is urging the Trump administration to affirm its support of the country’s Open Skies aviation agreements, noting that Open Skies policy aligns perfectly with the president’s stated priorities of supporting domestic jobs, correcting the US trade imbalance, and reducing government regulatory meddling.
In a letter sent Thursday to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, US Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow writes: “By reducing government interference in air travel, [Open Skies] agreements have led to hundreds of thousands of new American travel and manufacturing jobs, billions in U.S. economic growth, lower airfares for travelers, more flights to airports to and beyond major gateways, and new opportunities for US airlines.”
The association’s letter comes on the heels of renewed attacks by the Big Three U.S. airlines (American, Delta and United), who since early 2015 have petitioned the U.S. government to break Open Skies agreements with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in order to curb competition from Middle Eastern carriers Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways.
Among the reasons Dow cited for Open Skies’ alignment with Trump’s economic priorities:
• Open Skies creates new jobs across the country, and boosts made-in-America manufacturing. In 2015, the addition of just one new Emirates flight to Orlando created 1,400 new jobs in the region. Meanwhile, U.S. carriers are profiting from linking their flights to the new service from the Gulf. In fact, employment in the U.S. airline industry rose 4.3 percent from September 2015 to September 2016. Additionally, of Open Skies, the Gulf carriers have committed to purchasing American products and strengthening our manufacturing base. Of the 306 firm orders for the Boeing 777X, 235 are for the three Gulf carriers—and this investment will support thousands of American manufacturing jobs across the Boeing supply chain.
• Open Skies is critical to correcting America’s trade deficit. Every dollar spent by an overseas visitor to the U.S. counts as an export. In 2015, U.S. travel exports contributed $246 billion to our balance of payments. Undermining Open Skies would significantly reduce travel to the U.S. and make it far harder to address the chronic U.S. trade deficit.
• Open Skies is completely consistent with the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda. Each of America’s Open Skies agreements has eliminated government-imposed restrictions on routing, capacity and pricing. Without Open Skies, the U.S. would be stuck with a highly regulated, 20th-century air travel system that would hamstring growth and innovation, and force travelers to pay higher fares, while reducing America’s freedom to compete as the destination of choice for global travelers.
Writes Dow of the Big Three’s campaign against Open Skies: “While their arguments are couched in compelling terms, the Big Three airlines are not seeking a level playing field to compete. Instead, they are lobbying for government intrusion that would benefit themselves, but hurt American manufacturing jobs, threaten U.S. economic growth and undermine U.S. national security interests.”
Dow closed by expressing his sincere hope that the new administration will reaffirm America’s longstanding support for Open Skies.