US Big 3 Vs Gulf Big 3: Is It Last Year’s Story? What is the status of open skies after the “subsidy” onslaught?
Since the multimillion dollar “White Paper” was issued to much fanfare in 2015, there has been a mass of media hype which so far has been effective mostly in advertising the Gulf carrier products to a previously unknowing US customer base. A casualty of the process has also been Norwegian, whose application to operate under an Irish AOC has been remarkably sat on by a reluctant administration.
Meanwhile, the Gulf airlines have continued to add and announce new routes to the US. A ponderous bureaucratic process to examine whether some action should be taken to stop the Gulf 3 is still under way.
Many other US airlines are opposed to the proposition, most notably the world’s biggest freight carrier, FedEx, which has a hub in Dubai. Meanwhile, in Europe there are similar divisions between airlines, even provoking International Airlines Group to withdraw from the Association of European Airlines, just as Delta has left A4A.
Yet, behind the overtly nationalistic clamour of the Big 3, there was never any clear end goal to be achieved. It was always highly unlikely that the open skies agreement would be unilaterally terminated (and subsidy, real or contrived, is not grounds for termination).
And it is hard anyway to find a major airline which cannot be accused of receiving “subsidy” in some form.
And, swept up in all the anti-liberalisation backlash have been some relatively minor fifth freedom routings, for example an Emirates service from Milan and Ethiopian Airlines 787 services between Dublin and the US.
One very unfortunate outcome of all this noise has been to cast a pall over the momentum towards global liberalisation and open skies. Foreign countries, who were often reluctant in the first place to open their national airlines up to competition from US and other airlines, are beginning to wonder if they too should be more selective in opening their skies.
- Is the Big 3 great debate behind us now?
- Who are the casualties and what will be next?
- How big a roadblock has it created for world aviation liberalisation?
- To what extent are partnerships likely to change the confrontational posturing?
- AACO, Secretary General, Abdul Wahab Teffaha
- ACI EUROPE, Director General, Olivier Jankovec
- Air China, VP & GM North America, Zhihang Chi
- JetBlue Airways, Senior VP of Government Affairs & Associate General Counsel, Robert Land
- Lufthansa German Airlines, VP Business Development, Daniel Roeska