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Citing Harm to Workers, U.S. Airlines Pressure Tillerson on Foreign Airline Subsidization

The chief executive officers of the three biggest airline companies in the United States met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday, to pressure the administration to combat state-subsidization of airlines in the Middle East. Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, and Emirates are each owned by the governments of the United Arab Emirates or Qatar. The CEOs of Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United Airlines argue that the Persian Gulf states' subsidization practices are anti-competitive, and harm U.S. workers, the Hill reports.

U.S. airlines have been pushing the new administration on this issue since Donald Trump took office. The day following his inauguration, the CEOs released a statement saying they were looking "forward to briefing President-elect Donald Trump and his new administration on the massive, unfair subsidies that the UAE and Qatar give to their state-owned Gulf carriers." In February, the CEOs posted an open letter requesting a meeting with Tillerson on their website, the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies.

The pro-competition rhetoric is ironic coming from the upper-crust of the American airline industry, which is increasingly dominated by this triopoly of firms, after a series of mergers approved by the Obama and Bush administrations. However, not all U.S. airlines oppose the Gulf states' subsidization. Smaller airlines like JetBlue, FedEx, and others support continuing current air agreements with Gulf nations, according to Reuters.