AP NEWS

Largest U.S. airlines urge Trump to enforce Qatar deal barring subsidized flights

May 3, 2019

A group representing the three largest U.S. airlines and aviation unions said Wednesday that Qatar’s state-owned airline is playing President Trump for a fool by flouting a deal with the administration not to add new flights to the U.S. market.

“Qatar’s behavior on this issue has been outright insulting to both the president, the Secretary of State and the American people,” said Scott Reed, campaign manager for the Partnership for Open Fair Skies, which represents Delta Airlines, United Airlines and American Airlines and the unions.

The group took out full-page newspaper ads this week calling on Mr. Trump to enforce an agreement the U.S. negotiated in 2018 with Qatar Airways not to add new flights to the U.S. The airline purchased a 49-percent stake in Air Italy, which has been flying to U.S. destinations since last June and is adding flights to Miami this month.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week that the administration is “looking very closely” at the acquisition. Mr. Reed said in an interview Wednesday that’s not enough, and the administration needs to enforce its agreement.

“We’re working our way into Obama territory,” Mr. Reed said. “The Obama State Department did nothing. For the sake of fair competition and American jobs, we’re counting on President Trump to prove that our country won’t accept this raw deal from our trade partners.”

The White House had no immediate reaction.

The group said Qatar’s subsidies to its airline create unfair competition with the U.S. carriers and threaten about 1.2 million U.S. jobs.

But some other U.S. aviation firms are urging the administration against an enforcement action.

In a letter to Mr. Pompeo and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao last week, JetBlue Airways Corp, FedEx Corp and Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc. said taking action against Qatar Airways and Air Italy could prompt retaliation against U.S. carriers.

“For JetBlue, who just announced its intention to begin service to London from New York City and Boston starting in 2021, the possibility of retaliation could have a devastating impact on the ability to obtain authority to operate in the EU under the U.S.-EU Open Skies agreement,” the airlines said.