It's open season on the Open Skies talks in Washington.
Emirates Airlines is now putting together a team from its legal, strategic and financial departments to hit back at allegations from US airlines that it used unfair business methods to become one of the leading forces in global aviation.
Tim Clark, the Emirates president, is also planning to fly to Washington to meet officials from the Department of Transportation to head off any new restrictions to the current open skies policy. Detailed allegations were contained in a briefing last week.
The dispute is about more than Delta, United and American Airlines vs. Emirates Airline, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways. It also is a battle between the U.S. carriers and consumer groups, and it's likely to draw in such aviation industry heavyweights as Boeing and FedEx, writes the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The U.S. airlines are accusing their Persian Gulf rivals of receiving over $40 billion in improper subsidies since 2004 from the governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
The Gulf carriers deny receiving subsidies and Qatar Airways Chief Executive says the US airlines had themselves received backdoor subsidies via Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The US big three airlines can't deny this. A GAO report says US airlines have shed over $23 billion worth of liabilities, dumped leases they agreed to and reneged on employee contracts.
The US airlines like to say they're concerned about their employees but factoring in pensions liabilities offloaded on taxpayers, (some websites think it may be as high as $30 billion) and the payments made to airlines after 9/11, it adds up to benefits similar level to that the US airlines claim to have been taken by the Gulf carriers.
The US Airlines also enjoy anti-trust immunity protection with their airline alliances, which could be seen as a subsidy not only for US airlines but their European partners as well.
In sum, this has nothing to do with the fairness of the market or US jobs, it's about protecting profits.
The US airlines are dressing this up as some noble crusade for the US people but it is a selfish act.
Perhaps we know better what protectionism does. Usually it does not save the corporation it protects, but makes them lazy, less competitive and leaves a wrecked industry.
Commerce Soaring in Airports
Our attention in airports is now being monetized, while silence and non-commercial space are in short supply.
Consider the commercial detritus and visual pollution in US airports that begins at TSA. The security bins are often pimped out with advertisements.
Next is the departure gates, with the audible graffiti of nonstop blaring TVs and the moving handrails on the escalators now encased in ads.
In fact, there are almost no fields of view that haven't been claimed for commerce in an airport terminal because the people in them are captive.
We're increasingly under mental and emotional siege, from the ads, to the monitors - it's an unnecessary commercial cacophony. An airport is no longer a place to relax and read a book waiting to board, instead, it's an assault.
When you finally get onboard, there are video screens plastered on the seatback in front of each pair of eyes, where it's very difficult to tune out ads. Then a flight attendant comes around to pitch an application for the airline's credit card.
At what cost? For coach class pasengers thinking they're paying fewer dollars, the truth is they're paying more in other ways: uncomfortable and unhealthy seating is obvious. But they're now paying more than in the past because their time is being sold for ads, yet they get no fare discounts for the profits the airlines make from selling these ads.
This is not insignificant.
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We are commited to solutions for promoting airline passenger policies that forward first and foremost the safety of all passengers while not imposing unrealistic economic burdens that adversely affect airline profitability or create exhorbitant ticket price increases.
All American air carriers shall abide by the following standards to ensure the safety, security and comfort of their passengers:
Establish procedures to respond to all passenger complaints within 24 hours and with appropriate resolution within 2 weeks.
Notify passengers within ten minutes of a delay of known diversions, delays and cancellations via airport overhead announcement, on aircraft announcement, and posting on airport television monitors.
Establish procedures for returning passengers to terminal gate when delays occur so that no plane sits on the tarmac for longer than three hours without connecting to a gate.
Provide for the essential needs of passengers during air- or ground-based delays of longer than 3 hours, including food, water, sanitary facilities, and access to medical attention.
Provide for the needs of disabled, elderly and special needs passengers by establishing procedures for assisting with the moving and retrieving of baggage, and the moving of passengers from one area of airport to another at all times by airline personnel.
Publish and update monthly on the company’s public web site a list of chronically delayed flights, meaning those flight delayed thirty minutes or more, at least forty percent of the time, during a single month.
Compensate “bumped” passengers or passengers delayed due to flight cancellations or postponements of over 12 hours by refund of 150% of ticket price.
The formal implementation of a Passenger Review Committee, made up of non-airline executives and employees but rather passengers and consumers – that would have the formal ability to review and investigate complaints.
Make lowest fare information, schedules and itineraries, cancellation policies and frequent flyer program requirements available in an easily accessed location and updated in real-time.
Ensure that baggage is handled without delay or injury; if baggage is lost or misplaced, the airline shall notify customer of baggage status within 12 hours and provide compensation equal to current market value of baggage and its contents.
Require that these rights apply equally to all airline code-share partners including international partners.