US campaigners slam pro-Gulf airlines data as 'fake'

Gulf carriers brought $7.8 billion of spending to the States, according to the US Travel Association

Research this week revealed Gulf carriers brought in more than $7.8 billion of tourist spending to the US last year – but anti-Gulf airline lobbyists dismissed the findings as "fake".

A study of the 14 US cities served by Gulf carrier flights found that, in 2016, Gulf carriers brought nearly 1.7 million additional visitors to the US, who spent a total of almost $7.8 billion during their trips.

This spending supported nearly 80,000 additional US jobs, the research by the US Travel Association said.

The data emerged amid the ongoing campaign by lobbyists for the three largest US carriers – United, Delta and American Airlines – calling on the US government to freeze Open Skies agreements with the UAE and Qatar to prevent them from “unfair” expansion in the US.

The US Travel Association – which Etihad Airways joined in February and Emirates in May – argues that if Gulf flights to the US were cut in the name of fair competition, this would result in service reductions and the loss of thousands of American jobs.

Specifically, a freeze on Gulf carrier flights requested by ‘Big Three’ US carries in 2015 would have resulted in the loss of 2,650 US jobs in 2015 and 4,400 jobs in 2016.

US Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow said: “Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways fly to the US from previously underserved routes around the world, and provide needed disruption in the US aviation space.

“International travellers are a proven boon to US jobs, exports, tax revenues and economic growth, so the federal government should be doing everything it can to bolster connectivity.

“Every city with a Gulf carrier flight can attest - Open Skies agreements, and the airline competition they engender, is a pure positive for passengers and for local economies. End of story.”

However, Pro-Big Three lobby the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies has slammed the US Travel Association’s data as “fake”.

The group cited “credible data” – though it did not provide the source – showing that following the most recent entry by a Gulf carrier into a market, passenger bookings for international itineraries on US carriers and their joint venture partners declined an average of 21.4 percent in Seattle, 14.3 percent in Washington, DC, 13.3 percent in Orlando, 13.1 percent in San Francisco, 10.8 percent in Boston, 8.8 percent in Chicago and 7.6 percent in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Meanwhile, economists estimate that for every international route cancelled due to subsidy backed Gulf carrier expansion, 1,500 hard-working Americans lose their jobs, the group said.

Jill Zuckman, spokesperson for the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, said: “US Travel’s fake claims are based on false assumptions that ignore the fact that the Gulf carriers aren’t creating new passenger demand. Massive government subsidies allow the Gulf carriers to flood the US markets and undermine fair competition.

“Once again, the US Travel Association is fighting for Middle Eastern jobs at the expense of more than a million American jobs supported by the US aviation industry.”

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