A 1974 federal law establishes a process that US airlines should be using to pursue their claims about unfair competition by overseas competitors via the US Department of Transportation, a group of lawmakers say.
Bloomberg reports that Republican David Kustoff and a group of 13 Republicans and two Democrats wrote a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross suggesting that the law be used to settle claims that airlines like Emirates and Qatar get an unfair competitive advantage due to heavy government subsidies.
The law is aimed at preventing foreign governments from influencing airline competition, and gives DOT six months to determine if claims merit federal action.
The proposal got a chilly reception from US airlines. “This is nothing more than an effort to delay and distract from the real issue – American jobs are on the chopping block because of trade cheating by the United Arab Emirates and Qatar,” said Jill Zuckman, a spokesperson for the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, which represents Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines, and a group of airline unions.
The lawmakers noted that some other US airlines, like Jet Blue, have disputed the complaints of the “legacy” airlines. “We understand that there are great American businesses on both sides of this issue,” said Kustoff.
“That is why we are clarifying that there is a legal process in place to resolve this dispute, enacted by Congress in 1974, which has been used more than 75 times.”
Last month Delta said it was ramping up its fight to end “massive Gulf carrier subsidies”, with “actions by Congress and Delta employees alike reaching impressive new thresholds”.