As all of us are well aware, a strong Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport is vital to our region. The domestic and international connections it provides have served the community well when it comes to recruiting and retaining our major corporate partners, as well as our cutting-edge innovators and the employees those businesses attract. With this in mind, I feel compelled to share my concerns regarding recent activities that could threaten the health of the U.S. airline industry and the jobs associated with it.
Over the past decade, three Gulf airlines (Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates Airline) have received over 42 billion dollars in subsidies and interest-free loans from their respective governments, which has enabled them to expand rapidly and at an artificial pace. According to a recent USA Today editorial, “The three Persian Gulf airlines are buying jets and adding routes at an awe-inspiring pace” whereas U.S. carriers have experienced a decrease in market share because of their inability as a private entity to compete with carriers backed by their respective governments (in this case Qatar and the UAE). This is worrisome considering that every international roundtrip flight that is lost by a U.S. carrier results in an average net loss of 821 U.S. jobs.
Whether you are a big or small business, as members of the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce we can hopefully all agree on the unfairness of these business practices.
So what can we do to put an end to this? Businesses should contact the Department of Transportation and the Department of State to encourage them to open consultations with Qatar and the UAE. Additionally, in the meantime, we should request a freeze on new capacity from the Gulf carriers to the U.S. while the consultations go forward. It’s important to keep Open Skies agreements open and fair by addressing the subsidies that are being provided to these three carriers. Minnesota businesses and residents depend on a robust U.S. airline industry and we expect and want our government to address this issue.
More information on this issue can be found in the white paper, Restoring Open Skies: The Need to Address Subsidized Competition from State-Owned Airlines in Qatar and the UAE.