ALPA warns against government subsidies, including to Emirates, Etihad and Qatar

In a new white paper published by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), a pilot union based in the United States, the union provided a warning that the recent subsidies granted by the governments in the Gulf could distort the competition and harm US-based airlines’ international travel market share. The paper was published by the association on March 24, 2021.

In a paper, titled Battling the Pandemic, Rebuilding our Economy, and Connecting the World, ALPA highlighted that the union is “prepared to move forward a pilot-partisan agenda that reinforces safety and puts U.S. workers first as we begin the industry’s restoration.”

ALPA emphasized several issues, as the body pointed out that “rebuilding a strong and sustainable airline industry is critical for our future.”

“Before the global pandemic, the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar furnished massive, market-distortive subsidies to their airlines—Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways,” read the white paper by ALPA. According to the union, not only the subsidies violated “commercial economic terms,” but they were in breach of open skies agreements signed between the US and the respective Gulf governments.

“U.S. passenger carriers and airline employees have incurred substantial harm and will continue to do so absent a remedy,” argued ALPA. However, the Gulf trio was not the only region that the union indicated was problematic for the US airline industry, as China’s Big Three, namely Air China, China Eastern, and China Southern Airlines (ZNH) were provided with similar support from the Chinese government.

“As just one example, after 9/11, the Gulf carriers took advantage of the decline in the airline industry to steal international routes through subsidies,” read the paper. ALPA warns that the US government must be mindful of the relationship between the governments and the airlines in the region, as well as “transparency in reporting, and a weaning away from subsidies.”

The union was very blunt in terms of the relationship between the Chinese government and the Big Three. “Needless to say, an Open Skies agreement is inconceivable.”

“By coming together with concrete policy solutions, we can ensure that the U.S. airline industry—and the trillions of dollars of economic activity it creates—will safely, securely, and efficiently soar into the future with qualified, well-trained pilots at the helm,” commented on the paper the President of ALPA, Captain Joe DePete.

ALPA further highlighted such issues as safety, security, cargo operations, and various labor issues associated with flight crews across the United States.

Previously, American Airlines (A1G) (AAL), Delta Air Lines and United Airlines were concerned regarding alleged subsidies that Gulf-based airlines, namely Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways had received from their respective governments since 2015. The US and the UAE, where Emirates and Etihad Airways are based reached a “peace” agreement in 2018, while Qatar and the US did so as well the same year.


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