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Open and Fair Skies

Welcome aboard, and thanks for choosing United


jeffThe U.S. airline industry is a tough business, but throughout the last decade we’ve reshaped ourselves to become competitive in the increasingly global economy in which we operate. We have made tremendous strides toward becoming strong, sustainable businesses that are investing in our employees and our customers.

Our industry remains fiercely competitive, and we have always welcomed open and fair competition with network and low-cost/new entrant carriers in our domestic markets, as well as with global carriers. We also support “open skies.” Since 1992, the U.S. has signed 114 Open Skies treaties with countries around the world, designed to promote growth in international air travel by allowing each country’s carriers free and open access to the other country’s market. Importantly, Open Skies agreements are premised on fair competition, free of government distortion.

So while we support 112 of our government’s 114 Open Skies agreements, we do not support the two agreements between the U.S. and Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Those two countries have injected more than $42 billion in subsidies and other unfair benefits into their state-owned airlines (Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates Airline) over the past decade in an effort to dominate global aviation. These huge subsidies are an abuse of the Open Skies agreements, and have permitted the Gulf carriers’ massive growth (almost four times the rate of growth of demand) at the expense of U.S. airlines, our joint venture partners, our employees and the U.S. economy. These distortive subsidies allow these state-owned Gulf airlines to fly routes that do not meaningfully stimulate new passenger traffic, siphoning off passengers, preventing U.S. airlines from introducing new routes and forcing U.S. airlines to reduce service. Every route lost as a result of this unfair competition by a Gulf carrier results in a loss of more than 800 U.S. jobs.

The massive government subsidies that Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates Airline receive are in direct violation of the fundamental underpinnings of the Open Skies agreements and distort the international aviation market. This is why United, in partnership with other U.S. airlines and many labor organizations, has asked the U.S. government to enter into consultations with the governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to negotiate a fair outcome that will protect the interests of U.S. airline employees, the U.S. economy and U.S. jobs. In the meantime, we are asking the U.S. government to freeze the routes, frequency and capacity that these carriers have into the United States to help prevent further abuse under the treaties between these countries and the United States.

U.S. airlines and our employees have shown time and again that we can compete with foreign airlines around the world, when we are on a level playing field. However, forcing free-market companies, like United, that must provide a market return on investment, to compete against the national treasuries of foreign governments is too much to ask for any industry. U.S. airlines can and will compete on a level playing field, but we’ll only have that if we compete against airlines, not against the treasuries of Gulf nations.

You can help by signing the petition at openandfairskies.com. We value your support, as it is vital to the future of U.S. commercial aviation and our ability to serve your travel needs.

Thanks again for choosing United. We appreciate your business and look forward to welcoming you back soon.



Jeff Smisek
Chairman of the Board, President
and Chief Executive Officer,
United Airlines

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