Munoz: US carriers ‘strongly opposed’ to Air Italy’s US expansionDec 12, 2018 Sean Broderick
US carriers American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are preparing a “strong retort” to Air Italy’s service additions, calling the Italian carrier’s recent and planned moves into US gateways a “clear violation” of an agreement between US and Qatari government officials, Chicago-based United Airlines’ top executive said.
The three US airlines “are strongly opposed” to the route additions by Air Italy, which is 49% owned by Qatar Airways, and “are closely aligned,” United CEO Oscar Munoz told reporters Dec. 12.
Dubbing Air Italy “the Italian version of Qatar” Airways, Munoz called the recent route announcements “an in-your-face to the [Trump] Administration on agreements that have been reached.”
US government officials and Qatari and United Arab Emirates (UAE) counterparts earlier this year reached agreements that ended years-long disputes over several issues, including government support of Gulf-region carriers Qatar Airways and the UAE’s Etihad Airways and Emirates Airline. The US also balked at the Gulf carriers’ scheduling practices, including use of their hubs as transfer points on flights between the US and high-demand markets like India and Asia, as well as exercising of fifth-freedom rights to run trips from their hubs to the US via a third country.
The agreements—with Qatar in January and the UAE in May—clarified that the Gulf carriers had no “current” plans to add new fifth-freedom flights. US carriers and some industry officials categorized this as a de facto prohibition going forward, but documents that detail the agreements do not include such language. Fifth-freedom flying is permitted under Open Skies deals in place between the US and both Qatar and UAE.
While the Gulf carriers have not changed their plans, Air Italy has boosted its US flying since its spring relaunch. New routes linking New York and Miami with Milan drew the ire of US lawmakers, who recently wrote a letter to the US Departments of Transportation, Commerce and State calling for a probe on whether Air Italy is being subsidized by Qatar Airways. The Air Italy flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco were announced just after the letter was sent and are set to start in April 2019.
“It is not in the spirit of what we created,” Munoz said of the new planned flights. “Stay tuned on that,” he added, promising “a fairly strong retort” from the US side. [...]http://atwonline.com/open-skies/munoz-us-carriers-strongly-opposed-air-italy-s-us-expansion?NL=ATW-04&sfvc4enews=42&cl=article_2&utm_rid=CPEN1000000434175&utm_campaign=17771&utm_medium=email&elq2=10cb58a19292416580e47e056546f012