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U.S. Airlines Urge Federal Officials Not To Ban Qatar Airways, Fearing Retaliation

By Parker Diakite

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U.S. airline companies are asking federal officials to avoid restrictions on Qatar Airways from flying into the country, citing fear of retaliation from other countries on their own services.

This comes amid recent conflict involving Qatar Airways’ acquisition of Italian carrier Air Italy, which has been flying to U.S. destinations since June, as reported in INC.

The acquisition means that Qatar Airways owns a 49 percent stake in Air Italy.

American, Delta, and United Airlines are asking the Trump administration to crack down on Air Italy, and stop it from adding so many nonstop flights between the U.S. and Europe.

In a letter addressed to President Trump titled “Please Enforce Our Trade Agreements To Support U.S. Airline Workers,” the CEOs of each company stated:

“In January 2018, your administration reached a historic agreement with Qatar over its OpenSkies violations. While we hoped this agreement would hold Qatar accountable and force its heavily subsidized airline, Qatar Airways, to follow the rules and stop hurting American workers, that did not happen.”

“Qatar Airways is ignoring the 2018 agreement that your administration signed by using massive government subsidies to launch new routes to the United States through its stake in Air Italy.

“In the last few days, Qatar Airways has used its Italian proxy to launch routes to Los Angeles and San Francisco, and added flights to Miami – a further effort to undermine U.S. airlines. Simply put, Qatar Airways represents a grave threat to American jobs and the health of the airline industry.”

Despite their concerns, some airlines are attempting to downplay the move by Qatar Airlines.

In a letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, JetBlue Airways Corp and cargo carriers FedEx Corp and Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc said banning Qatar Airways or Air Italy could lead to retaliation against US carriers.

JetBlue recently announced they will begin flying from New York and Boston to London daily from 2021.

The letter states that restrictions “would also have a crippling impact on US passenger carriers seeking new service to the EU.”

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