At a meeting between the governments of the United States and the United Arab Emirates held yesterday in Washington D.C, officials confirmed their commitment to an existing Open Skies agreement that allows commercial airlines to fly freely between the two countries.
While no U.S.-based airline currently flies to the UAE, the Dubai-based Emirates serves 11 destinations across the United States and Etihad flies to four destinations.
Intense lobbying from the Big Three U.S. airlines (US3) – American, Delta and United Airlines – over the last few years has called on the U.S. government to rewrite the Open Skies agreement in order to limit the expansion of Persian Gulf carriers into the North American market.
The US3 claim the likes of Emirates and Etihad have received billions of dollars in government subsidies that create an unfair playing field and put hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs at risk.
When President Trump pushed his ‘America First’ agenda, there was talk that officials might actually go along with the demands of the US3 but in the end, negotiations between the United States and UAE simply resulted in a what’s known as a Record of Discussion being signed last May.
As the UAE’s Foreign Minister said at the time, the Record of Discussion pretty much confirmed that it would be “business as usual” without any change to the existing Open Skies deal. In fact, the text said both countries showed “strong support” for the existing agreement and that government support was “neither uncommon or necessarily problematic”.
The only concession the United States did win was a commitment for Emirates and Etihad to provide fully audited accounts which adhere to international standards – something that Emirates has been doing for many years anyway.
The UAE has proven to be an important ally of the United States – especially in light of rising tensions with Iran. Trade between the two countries is said to be worth $25 billion per year, three-quarters of which comes from U.S. exports to the UAE. Both Emirates and Etihad said that they have ordered billions of dollars worth of U.S. made aircraft and parts that have secured the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Americans.