March 14, 2017
The Honorable Frank Lobiondo, Chairman
The Honorable Rick Larsen, Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Aviation
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
U.S. House of Representatives
2251 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Lobiondo and Ranking Member Larsen,
As CEOs of the members of U.S. Airlines for Open Skies (USAOS), we respectfully submit the following comments for the record in connection with the March 8 hearing of the Aviation Subcommittee, entitled “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Air Transportation in the United States in the 21st Century.” We believe it is critical to move forward with ATC system modernization and operational reform. We also believe it is important not to turn back the clock on the aviation accomplishments our nation has achieved.
In our view, aviation infrastructure includes not only physical infrastructure, such as airports, runways, and air traffic control facilities, but also legal and regulatory infrastructure that allows cargo and passenger airlines to operate with maximum efficiency. One essential element of that legal infrastructure is the network of Open Skies agreements that the United States has negotiated with 120 countries around the world. These agreements create open markets for airline service, allowing passenger and cargo carriers to determine the routes, frequency, and price of their service, based on customer demand.
Open Skies delivers substantial benefits for the U.S. economy. It not only opens markets for U.S. airlines, but also reduces fares for passengers, facilitates U.S. exports, and connects U.S. communities with foreign tourists and businesses. For U.S. cargo airlines, Open Skies allows the combination of traffic flows in different markets to create global route networks. For U.S. passenger airlines, Open Skies expands opportunities to provide international service directly and in partnership with foreign carriers.
Unfortunately, the three U.S. legacy carriers (United, Delta, and American) are asking the U.S. government to take action that would breach specific Open Skies agreements and endanger the vital Open Skies network. Specifically, they are demanding that the United States unilaterally restrict access to the U.S. market for three Gulf carriers (Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar) based on allegations of unfair subsidies. The legacy carriers, however, have not identified any violation of the Open Skies agreements with the UAE and Qatar, nor have they pursued their claims through the independent, fact-based procedures established by Congress under the International Air Transportation Fair Competitive Practices Act, 49 U.S.C. 41310. Rather, they are seeking a political fix to shield themselves from the competition that Open Skies affords.
The companies we represent – Atlas Air Worldwide, FedEx, Hawaiian Airlines, and JetBlue Airways – formed USAOS to educate policymakers and the public about the benefits of Open Skies agreements and to oppose the demands of the legacy carriers. Our companies, as well as other U.S. airlines not aligned with the legacy carriers, collectively employ more than 942,000 workers, almost three-and-a-half times the number of workers employed by the legacy carriers (275,000). We support Open Skies because we support competitive airline markets at home and abroad.
We appreciate this opportunity to share our views. The attached annex includes additional information about the benefits of Open Skies. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue with you and would be pleased to respond to any questions.
William J. Flynn
President and CEO
Atlas Air Worldwide
President and COO
President and CEO
Mark B. Dunkerley
President and CEO
Hawaiian Airlines Inc.