Fly the Open Skies

Open Skies refers to agreements between countries to allow airlines to set their own schedules and routes instead of relying on government bureaucrats.

Open Skies benefits American air travelers as well as businesses that gain new customers from the travelers brought to America by Open Skies. Large airlines oppose Open Skies because they want the government to protect their markets and profits.

These airlines— and their lobbyists and “public relations consultants” like Hilary Rosen (who once sold access to President Obama Obama’s former Campaign Manager Jim Messina), Beacon Strategies, and Clinton loyalist Phillipe Reineshave— have launched a campaign against Open Skies. These DC insiders are trying to convince the  Trump Administration to “renegotiate” the Open Skies agreement with certain Gulf States such as Qatar. The goal is likely to drag out the renegotiations and effectively kill Open Skies.

The Trump Administration will soon make a decision on this issue, so Campaign for Liberty members should call the White House at 202-456-1111 and tell them to refrain from “renegotiating” Open Skies.

Veronique de Rugy provides more detail:

Consumers have benefited for decades from the presence of Open Skies agreements that lessen government interference in the market for international air travel. Now, a coalition of the big three U.S. airlines — Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and United Airlines — along with labor unions, are hoping to ride the wave of economic nationalism and roll back these bilateral agreements, opening markets to foreign competition under the guise of "fairness."

Deregulation of the U.S. airline industry has led to lower prices and greater choice in routes and service. The Open Skies agreements provided a means to achieve similar results in the international market by encouraging other governments to do the same. These agreements mean that U.S. airlines can fly at will to treaty countries, and vice versa. They have also made it very profitable for domestic airlines to partner with Emirates Airline flying to the United States.

Like many who seek special dispensation from the government, legacy carriers couch their appeals as one for "fair competition." This is a common euphemism for government interference and should be rejected as such.

They want the Open Skies agreements between the United States and Persian Gulf governments thrown out and to deny Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways access to American cities because they're subsidized by their governments. But so are other U.S. airline partners, many of whom happened to also be government-owned. Such subsidies are unfortunate, but they're hardly a reason to rip up the very system that's pressuring governments around the world to reduce protectionist behaviors.

S. airlines have also received, and continue to receive, their unfair share of government handouts, which is all the more reason to question their stated interest in fairness. As my colleague Gary Leff recently noted on his popular "View From the Wing" blog, "This isn't my preferred way of fostering commerce, but the history is clear that airlines have been intertwined with governments since their inception." He goes on to give the gory details of an industry with close to a centurylong history of government subsidies, protection from competition, pension liability rescues and bailouts.

There is also your everyday government-granted handout: the Fly America Act, which requires federal travelers to use U.S. carriers for federally funded travel without consideration for cost or convenience, or the Essential Air Service program and its generous subsidies for airlines serving rural communities. In addition, as Leff notes, "In the U.S. nearly all commercial airports are owned by government, and they generally share revenue with airlines for all the business activity that takes place inside." The bottom line, Leff says, is that "it's impossible to disentangle the airline industry from U.S. government."

Read the whole piece here.

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