MIAMI — Today, American and Qatari administrations have agreed on the enforcement of the American Open Skies Agreement.
This agreement will benefit American carriers through a level playing field on the competitive front on any services between the mainland United States and Qatar.
American Airlines believes that once the world widely knew the knowledge of state subsidies, the request by the United States government was simple. It was to work with carriers in the Middle Eastern Three (ME3) to enforce a spectrum-wide agreement of the treaty.
Today, Secretary Tillerson & #Qatar's FM @MBA_AlThani_ welcomed the outcome of civil aviation discussions aimed at ensuring a level playing field in the global aviation sector while maintaining the #OpenSkies framework of US international aviation policy. https://t.co/aYvbX0gTIV pic.twitter.com/0lfqFDKdLj
— Department of State (@StateDept) January 30, 2018
Within the agreements between the two administrations, Qatar Airways must adopt “transparent and internationally consistent standards for disclosure and auditing” meaning they have to show all of their ingoings and outgoings. On top of this, they have also agreed not to have any fifth freedom flights (for instance, stopping in Europe to pick up passengers and carry on) going into the United States.
These Fifth Freedom flights are a practice that Emirates has been adopting throughout several destinations. The Dubai-based carrier flies from Dubai to New York, via Milan; or to Newark, via Athens.
This new agreement states that any of Qatar’s flights into the United States must be direct and cannot have any stopping points whatsoever.
American Airlines have praised the move saying that this will helps sustain the 120,000 strong work-force that is based all around the globe.
“Today is an important day, and we commend the Administration for appreciating the urgency of this situation and for its determination to enforce our country’s trade agreements and stand up for American jobs. This effort would not have been possible without the partnerships of our union leaders and partners and so many of our team members. Thank you for joining together making sure your voices were heard. You were an important influencing factor in this positive outcome,” said the airline via an internal memo.
The US State Department is also working with the United Arab Emirates to feasibly reach a far similar agreement with the likes of Emirates and Etihad, looking to establish fairer competition across the two continents.
It will be interesting to see whether Emirates will budge like how Qatar have done. Emirates is a far larger carrier and could require more influencing and more incentivization compared to the likes of Qatar. Emirates will want to capitalize on the stopovers as there is only so much revenue to be made from direct flights.
It could also be an issue for carriers in the Middle East who want to use the stopover points for US Preclearance, as this could now put that at risk.
With President Trump taking a more stricter stance on immigration as well, this could very well coincide with the deals made by the State Department and Qatari officials in maintaining a high level of immigration also.
But for now, this is considered as quite a victory for US carriers as jobs are protected, more “anti-competitive practices” are being removed, which gives those airlines the opportunity to thrive in other destinations, say across Europe, where the stopover points won’t be happening anymore.