rAt the recent CAPA Americas Aviation Summit, a panel of renowned aviation
industry professionals took the stage to discuss the future of one of the most
important global aviation topics of our time: Open Skies agreements. While the
casual traveler might not have ever even heard of this subject, Open Skies has
a profound effect on all of us who have ever traveled to a foreign country or
would like to in the future.
We sign these agreements with other countries to ensure the
rights of U.S. airline carriers to access these new markets, and vice-versa
with the countries we’ve partnered with. Since 1992, when the United States
signed its first Open Skies agreement with the Netherlands, we have
negotiated over 120 of these agreements, and that number continues to
grow to this day. A 2018 Open Skies agreement signed with Brazil and a forthcoming post-Brexit agreement between the U.S. and the U.K.
further signal the United States’ ongoing commitment to this approach.
Yet, while Open Skies has cemented its place in the modern
international aviation system, this longstanding U.S. policy has still come
under attack. Some of America’s biggest airlines have mounted opposition to specific agreements signed with
Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, our Open Skies partners in the Gulf. By
targeting Open Skies agreements, these U.S. carriers are aiming to limit
competition, which is the hallmark of a market-based economy. There
is always a winner in competition – the consumer.
Thankfully, President Trump and his administration weren’t
having it. Knowing bilateral Open Skies agreements provide bilateral benefits
that are worth protecting, the United States has continued to expand its Open
Skies policy. We would be sending the wrong message if we allowed fears of
competition to dictate American diplomacy on this matter.
That’s why the State Department sat down with Qatar and the
United Arab Emirates in January and May of last year to sign Records of Discussion that
renew America’s commitment to this relationship. This understanding allows our
Gulf partners to continue adding flights to the United States – the kinds of
flights that, in 2016, generated some $7.8 billion in spending by visitors to
the United States.
However, it also signifies a commitment to preserving the
benefits that aviation liberalization provide to American workers from all
walks of life. The White House’s statement after signing the Record of Discussion with
the UAE recognized that upholding this agreement would “benefit pilots, flight
attendants, machinists, and other working men and women in America’s airline
This isn’t overstating things in the slightest, either. When
new American routes are established overseas, all of these groups are impacted
in the process and reap the economic benefits. It’s also why Delta, American,
and United are by and large alone in their position on Open Skies. They don’t have
the support of other aviation industry stakeholders, including other U.S.
legacy carriers like Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines.
While there is little doubt that the large American carriers will continue trying to limit their competition, we can rest assured that President Trump and his cabinet have and will continue to take the side of economic growth and job creation by standing firmly in support of Open Skies.
Matt Mackowiak is president of Austin, Texas,
and Washington, D.C.-based Potomac Strategy Group. He’s a Republican
consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney re-election campaign veteran
and former press secretary to two U.S. senators.