October 25 - US-UAE Open Skies Benefits: Britton versus Britton; More Big Three Hypocrisy

Business Travel Coalition



US-UAE Open Skies Benefits: Britton versus Britton; Yet More Big Three Hypocrisy


By Kevin Mitchell

In 2013, an excellent study presented a compelling case that the US-UAE Open Skies agreement hugely benefits both countries. That study, entitled “U.S.-U.A.E. Commercial Aviation: Taking Flight the World’s Fastest Growing Bilateral Aviation Relationship,” concluded that “the total benefit to the U.S. economy from trade with the U.A.E. in commercial aviation exceeded $16 billion in 2012” alone. Here is a link to it -- http://btcnews.co/2yKXKnu.

That pro-US-UAE Open Skies study was prepared by Rob Britton, a Principal at AirLearn. It was commissioned by the US-UAE Business Council, the premier organization successfully promoting commercial relations between the two countries. The United States’ $19 billion trade surplus with the UAE is our largest with any Middle East trading partner, and the third largest trade surplus with any country globally.

On October 19, 2017, an op-ed appeared in the Huffington Post criticizing the UAE Ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba, for publicly calling the US-UAE Open Skies agreement an economic “win win” for both countries. The author also criticized the Ambassador for stating the obvious – that UAE carriers Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways are huge customers of Boeing widebody aircraft, and extremely loyal to Boeing’s American workforce – and workers across its extensive supply chain.

The curious thing about the Huffington Post op-ed is that was authored by the same person, Rob Britton, now indicating he is an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University and airline industry expert, and author of nearly three dozen op-eds that mimic the anti-competitive, repetitive and fictitious arguments of Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines (Big Three). You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce his loyalties - and it’s not American consumers, workers or other aerospace stakeholders.

So, we have a Britton versus Britton battle of views on US-UAE Open Skies benefits. According to 2017 Britton, Ambassador Otaiba had the audacity to call our Open Skies relationship with the UAE a “win win” for both countries. Yet, 2013 Britton wrote, “trade in the commercial-aviation sector provides significant benefit to the economies of both the United States and the United Arab Emirates, especially to the former. Thousands of good-paying manufacturing jobs, knowledge-based positions, employment in inbound tourism, and the synergistic effects as income is spent and re-spent in the domestic economy all contribute.” That sure sounds like “win win” to me.

2017 Britton also criticized Ambassador Otaiba for noting what a substantial and loyal customer UAE airlines are of made-in-the-USA Boeing aircraft. 2017 Britton condescendingly added, “UAE’s ad copywriters should keep in mind that for nearly a century, U.S. airlines have bought far more Boeing jets than have the airlines from the Gulf.” However, 2013 Britton touted that Emirates placed the largest single order in Boeing history for GE-powered 777Xs.

It is no wonder the Big Three’s op-ed champion - 2017 Britton - made opposite arguments in 2013. The political campaign against Open Skies is riddled with hypocrisy. For Delta’s part, it claims it is a champion of US workers. Yet, at the same time, it has taken delivery of its first Rolls Royce-powered Airbus A-350-900 and its Chief Executive Officer, Ed Bastian, and its Chief Operating Officer Gil West, both have publicly declared the A350-900 to be Delta’s “flagship.”

Then there is Delta’s purchase of the heavily subsidized, Canadian manufactured C Series 100 aircraft that prompted Boeing to file an anti-dumping trade complaint. The Trump Administration sided with Boeing and American workers. Delta sided with its “great partner” Bombardier with Mr. Bastian defiantly adding “we love the product (the CS 100),” and it will “be our best domestic aircraft.” Yet, when it is politically expedient to do so, Mr. Bastian claims Delta is a great supporter of US jobs.

Delta and 2017 Britton by no means have a lock on the Big Three’s hypocrisy.  American and United for their parts similarly claim to be champions of US workers. Yet, neither have purchased a single Boeing 777X, which will be a shot in the arm for American jobs. For that matter, neither has Delta. In stark contrast, Gulf Carriers Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways have purchased 235 of the 306 made-in-the-USA 777Xs ordered to date. United, contrary to that, recently finalized an order for 45 Airbus A350-900s, which Andrew Levy, its EVP and Chief Financial Officer, declared to be a “great outcome for United-Airbus.” Mr. Levy should have added a great outcome for European aerospace workers too. Where’s the love for US aerospace workers - the finest in the world?

2017 Britton is not the only advocate for the Big Three that wishes the Internet did not hold people accountable for what they once wrote or said. Jill Zuckman, the spokesperson for the Big Three’s Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, vigorously asserts her clients never received a post-9/11 bailout. However, when Ms. Zuckman was a reporter for the Chicago Tribune covering the airline industry immediately after 9/11, she wrote a September 23, 2001 article entitled “Congress OK’s Airline Bailout.” In that article, Ms. Zuckman describes, as she put it, the “controversial $15 billion aid package to keep the struggling (US) airlines in business.” So, what is the truth – the view of an objective 2001 journalist or a 2017 Big Three advocate?

The Big Three are heavily armed for their nearly three year-old political campaign against Open Skies and consumer choice. Due to record-setting profits, they a have a seemingly unlimited budget which they liberally spend. They no doubt have chutzpah - some might call it gall. How else can Mr. Bastian sing his loudest karaoke version of Queen’s “we are the champions (of US workers)” while bashing the Trump Administration and Boeing for calling-out trade dumping by Delta’s “great partner” Bombardier?

The Big Three have advocates like Ms. Zuckman and Dr. Britton who unabashedly make the exact opposite arguments they made in the past while on someone else’s nickel. What the Big Three don’t have on their side, because you cannot purchase them, are the most important things – credibility and truth. 

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