There is no doubt that American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines expected action when they initiated their “Fair Skies” lobbying efforts. But I’m pretty sure this is not the sort of action they were going for. In the past few weeks Emirates and Qatar Airways have announced significant expansion in US markets, essentially taunting the US3 with more flights and more destinations. Of course, business is business and it is not all fighting amongst the crowd, but it is an interesting set of developments to consider.
Emirates is going double daily to Boston, leveraging the codeshare partnership it has with JetBlue to help provide feed on that route. JetBlue has also suggested that the Emirates flights helped justify expanded business travel routes in Boston. The relationship is symbiotic and Emirates’ new service to Orlando may benefit similarly. Seattle will also see double daily service on Emirates.
For Qatar Airways the expansion is even broader. The carrier is adding Boston (16 March 2016), Los Angeles (1 January 2016) and Atlanta (1 July 2016) to its route map and also doubling up in New York City (1 March 2016), well behind the 4x daily A380s Emirates will have there. Two of the destinations, Boston and JFK, will see the A350, offering the newest and nicest business class product Qatar Airways has flying.
Read More: The fight over Open Skies: Business as Usual
And then there is the increased cooperation between American Airlines and Etihad, with a growing codeshare partnership and more closely aligned frequent flyer reciprocity. Indeed, for all the rhetoric involved, American is most tightly tied to the ME3 in terms of business operations and meeting customer needs.
Not surprisingly the US3 lobbyists are painting the moves as furthering illegally subsidized service into the US market as seen in this statement released on Monday:
This is yet another example of the Gulf carriers racing against the clock to dump more subsidized capacity on the U.S. and diverting passengers away from the U.S. airlines.
It is also interesting to note that IAG, the parent company of British Airways and Iberia, has chosen to leave the largest EU lobbying organization in large part over that group’s stance on the topic. Air Berlin also left the group though that is less surprising given the Etihad ownership stake in the organization.
Like most things I’m more or less convinced that reality sits somewhere in between the very loud lobbying positions of both sides. And also that, at the end of the day, more competition is usually better for consumers than not. Especially given that the markets the ME3 provide easier access to – especially in South Asia – are so poorly served by the US3. Easing access to explore and discover more of the world is a very, very good thing to me.
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