December 7, 2016

Vice President-elect Mike Pence
Chairman
Presidential Transition Team
1800 F Street NW, Room G117
Washington, DC 20270–0117

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Dear Vice President-elect Pence,

As members of U.S. Airlines for Open Skies (USAOS), we write to share our strong support for maintaining the global framework of U.S. Open Skies aviation agreements, which support U.S. jobs, reduce costs for airline passengers, facilitate U.S. exports, strengthen our national security, and promote competition in the airline industry.

During the last three decades, under the leadership of both Republican and Democratic Administrations, the United States has negotiated Open Skies agreements with more than 100 countries around the world. These agreements eliminate government interference in commercial decisions about the routes, frequency, pricing, and capacity of airline service, both passenger and cargo. They also assure the ability of all U.S. airlines to create comprehensive international networks. Open Skies thus allows airlines to deliver more efficient and cost-effective service to American consumers, businesses and the U.S. government, including the military.

Regrettably, three large legacy U.S. airlines (“legacy carriers”) – Delta, United, and American – are making demands that would jeopardize Open Skies and reduce competition in an already concentrated U.S. airline market. Specifically, they are asking the U.S. government to freeze access to U.S. routes for airlines from two U.S. Open Skies partners – the United Arab Emirates (Emirates and Etihad) and Qatar (Qatar Airways). The legacy carriers claim such action is a justified response to alleged subsidies the foreign carriers have received from their home governments.

In fact, freezing U.S. routes would breach Open Skies, harm U.S. airline passengers, and endanger U.S. jobs. It would reduce competition not only on international routes but also in the domestic market by stemming the flow of passengers into the United States that has enabled smaller U.S. airlines to expand service and compete with the legacy carriers. It would also endanger the global networks of U.S. cargo airlines that deliver high-value U.S. exports around the world.

In addition, claims by the legacy carriers that they have been injured by the Gulf carriers are unsupported by the facts. Contrary to their claims of job loss, the legacy carriers have hired more than 12,000 new employees during the last four years. Meanwhile, their operating profits have reached record levels, nearly tripling on average since 2007.

We formed USAOS, comprised of Atlas Air Worldwide, FedEx, Hawaiian Airlines, and JetBlue Airways, to make it clear that the legacy carriers do not speak for all, or even most, U.S. airlines. 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). Our coalition opposes the demands of the legacy carriers, and we are pleased to be joined by organizations representing the U.S. travel, tourism, and hospitality industries, as well as local communities across the United States, including economic development agencies and airport authorities.

Since July, the U.S. Administration, led by the State Department, has been conducting technical discussions with the UAE and Qatari governments. USAOS fully supports these talks and hopes that they reach a timely, mutually acceptable conclusion that upholds the rights and obligations of all parties. If the issue remains unresolved at the end of the Administration, however, we urge the Trump Administration to reject the demands of the legacy carriers and protect the U.S. Open Skies network for the reasons described in the attached annex.

We look forward to working with you on this issue and others, and would be happy to answer any questions regarding our strong support for U.S. Open Skies agreements.

 

Sincerely,

William J. Flynn
President and CEO
Atlas Air Worldwide

David Bronczek
President and CEO
FedEx Express

Robin Hayes
President and CEO
JetBlue Airways

Mark B. Dunkerley
President and CEO
Hawaiian Airlines Inc.

 

2017-07-11T15:21:38+00:00