The Miami aviation industry is as strong as it’s been in years. Airlines are expanding their service and hiring up local talent. American Airlines alone now has more than 340 daily flights out of Miami International Airport, connecting Floridians to the Caribbean, South America, Europe and beyond. The airline is also the third-largest private employer in Miami-Dade County, with more than 11,000 workers.
Unfortunately, this growth and prosperity are being put at risk by two governments in the Middle East that subsidize their state-owned airlines, distorting the global aviation industry.
Today, the United States has Open Skies agreements with more than 100 partner nations, which were designed to ensure fair and equal competition in the international aviation. Over the last decade, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have violated the Open Skies policy by providing more than $42 billion in subsidies and other unfair benefits to their state-owned airlines.
Enjoying virtually unlimited resources from the treasuries of wealthy nations, these airlines are not constrained — as U.S. airlines are — by market forces or the need to turn a profit. Instead, they operate as arms of the state, immune from typical business pressures.
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The hardworking men and women of the U.S. aviation industry have seen a lot of turmoil in the past decade. But through the adversity, they have continued to bounce back and help make the U.S. airlines the international competitors they are today. And the U.S. airlines can and do compete with anyone. But instead of competing fairly with U.S. airline carriers and workers, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates have been given an unfair leg up by their governments.
The Gulf carriers are rapidly expanding service to cities around the world without creating new, meaningful demand. Just this year, Qatar Airways and Emirates have dramatically accelerated their efforts to flood the market with subsidized capacity in cities across the country. Massive subsidies enable these airlines to pursue market domination only by taking passengers from non-subsidized U.S. carriers. This massive disruption to the marketplace is putting the health of the entire international aviation industry at risk and negatively affecting American jobs and the U.S. economy.
The U.S. government must stand up for the domestic aviation industry and the hundreds of thousands of workers who depend on it. Defending the Open Skies trade agreement means defending the industry, its employees and the U.S. economy from the immediate harm caused by massive, market-distorting subsidies. We’re asking the U.S. government to seek consultations with Qatar and the UAE under the Open Skies agreements to address this issue, a process contemplated by both Qatar and the UAE in their respective agreements.
We aren’t alone in this effort. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, the Miami Commission, West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio and the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches and more than half a dozen other community leaders from Florida have sent letters to the U.S. government expressing concerns about these subsidies and the impact they have on thousands of local airline and non-airline jobs, airline service and the economy.
As the leader of the pilot’s union that represents 2,100 Miami-based pilots who fly passengers out of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach, I’m pleased with the support we’ve received from the community of Miami and join them in urging the U.S. government to act swiftly to address these unfair subsidies.
The U.S. airlines and the employees who work for them aren't afraid of competition. In fact, we welcome the opportunity to compete with companies and workers around the world. But that competition should be airline-to-airline, not our airline versus the treasuries of foreign governments. American workers deserve a level playing field.
Capt. Keith Wilson is the president of the Allied Pilots Association (APA).