FUTURE WORLDWIDE aviation liberalization is at great risk. Recent news reports suggest that progress on a more liberal bilateral aviation agreement between China and the U.S. has been undermined by the toxic negotiating environment created by Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines (US3). These U.S. carriers have launched a protectionist war against Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways (ME3) alleging government subsidies. Similarly, the US3 has for 18 months blocked Norwegian Air International’s (NIA) application to serve the U.S.
Aviation authorities across the globe are increasingly apprehensive regarding how the U.S. Administration might respond to US3 demands that new ME3 capacity be frozen and Open Skies agreements with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates be renegotiated. If, for example, the Administration were to cave to the US3’s demands, many of these international participants would seek their own protectionist advantages by undoing Open Skies agreements with the U.S. and other countries. “If America can walk away from open markets, why can’t we?”
The fact is the painstakingly created international system for cargo and commercial aviation liberalization is now under a cloud of uncertainty and could quickly unravel if competitive self-interest is allowed to prevail over national and consumer interests. Harm has no doubt already been caused as aviation leaders conflate this Administration’s hesitancy to reject US3 demands with America’s unwillingness to lead in other international contexts. The Administration needs to approve the NAI application straightaway and heed the advice of the U.S. Department of Justice and promptly reject US3 demands.