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Fri 3 Apr 2015 12:59 AM

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US aviation union makes new claim in spat with Gulf airlines

Association of Flight Attendants says 800 US jobs are lost every time a US carrier loses route to Gulf rival

US aviation union makes new claim in spat with Gulf airlines

The dispute between US and Gulf airlines over alleged subsidies to the likes of Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways has deepened with claims that 800 US jobs are being lost every time a US carrier loses a route to a Gulf rival.

The US-based Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) claimed in a statement that the "free hand-outs" were "alarming" and action must be taken to level the playing field.

Three US airlines have accused their competitors from the Gulf of receiving more than $40 billion in government subsidies.

Emirates Airline, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways have denied the allegations, saying US airlines, including Delta, American and United, have lost market share because of their inferior service.

On Thursday, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), a member of the Partnership for Open and Fair Skies, highlighted new analysis released by Georgetown University professor Dr Rob Britton.

The white paper claimed the $42 billion subsidies and other unfair benefits that airlines received from their respective governments in the Gulf is resulting in a net loss of more than 800 US jobs every time a US airline loses a route to one of these Gulf carriers.

“The free hand-outs the Gulf carriers received to rapidly expand their fleets and international routes is alarming," said AFA International president Sara Nelson. "It is a text book example of what an un-level playing field looks like, and countries that circumvent our bilateral agreements and allow repressive labour standards must be stopped.”

The Partnership for Open and Fair Skies, composed of the three largest US carriers and aviation unions including, AFA, the Air Line Pilots Association, the Allied Pilots Association, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, and the Communications Workers of America, is calling for the US government to take these concerns up immediately with representatives of the UAE and Qatar.

Nelson added: “It all comes back to protecting US aviation jobs and upholding the highest level of safety. We will continue to work with industry partners to protect Flight Attendants and our passengers.”

Last month, Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates Airline and  Etihad's CEO James Hogan travelled to Washington to address the issue front-on.

Clark said that he expects an apology from US carriers after he proves his airline has received no subsidies from the Dubai government.

Hogan has since warned that the "dark clouds of protectionism” gathering over the air travel industry in Europe and the United States pose a significant threat to passenger choice.

He international regulators should recognise that “investing in success is not a crime; blocking competition would be".

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Original Joe 5 years ago

"Repressive labour standards"? What on earth are they talking about? I wish my employer gave me some of those repressive labour standards! My daughter goes to school with the children of Emirates pilots at Wellington Academy DSO. A good salary, a free 3 or 4 bedroom villa, free schooling for a couple of children, families fly business class, extended families also get to fly, etc. They are well taken care of.

The truth is there is very little if any competition for US flights to the Middle East. Delta flies to Dubai from Atlanta and United from Washington Dulles I believe. There are no direct flights from most of the cities Emirates flies to including Houston, NYC, LA, San Francisco, Seattle or the upcoming Orlando. US Airlines are complaining because their partner airlines in Europe are also raising a stink at the superior service on newer aircraft which are staffed with younger more energetic cabin crew than those who are cabin crew on US and European airlines.

Mark Renton 5 years ago


The article is about flight attendants, not pilots. Big difference.

Anonymous 5 years ago

Not really Mark. My wife was a flight attendant for 10 years. If you compare an Emirates flight attendant to a US flight attendant, the perks and tax free pay of the Emirates flight attendant, the opportunities to fly wide body aircraft versus the tiny planes in the States, the long haul layovers in places like Hong Kong, London, New York, etc. versus the turnaround garbage routes of Altanta to Toledo then back again, etc. there is still no comparison.

When my wife left Emirates she was a Purser. We got 90% off business class seats which does not count her annual leave tickets. Emirates paid her a generous salary and housing allowance even for being a flight attendant.

What do you want to compare next? Engineers, ticket agents, what? Emirates has their act together otherwise they would not have so many CVs being sent to them every month.

Mark Renton 5 years ago


Emirates flight attendant to US flight attendant is a valid comparison. Joe's comparison of US flight attendant to Emirates pilot is not.

sarah 5 years ago

I just disembarked in Dubai from an A380 flight from Bangkok and I was amazed when a minimal amount of passengers entered the baggage claim area from my flight - most passengers were transit to Gatwick. I purposely flew economy on the A380 on one route to access economy on that flight and this is such a superb plane that the legroom alone in ec0nomy is worth the journey. Discerning travelers are voting for the customer service levels and the planes on Emirates to travel throughout the world and this is making European and American airlines shutter. They can't possibly compete unless they increase their service levels and purchase better aircrafts - case in point. What is also interesting is how Emirates now does command the globe in air travel and passengers are definitely savvy enough to purchase based on these factors. So up your game, because passengers will always fly Emirates unless you increase your customer performance levels.

The Consultant 5 years ago

Sarah, the service problems that older airlines have will increasingly affect Emirates unless they get rid of more of their older planes. I recently flew economy to Singapore and the difference between the ageing 777-300 on the way out and the A380 on the way back was huge. People will only pay for Emirates customer service if they can be sure of a consistent level of service, unfortunately this is no longer the case.

Rootless 5 years ago

The A380 is the best Emirates has (NB version 2) but it has already been surpassed by the 787 and A350 in interior comfort (e.g. try Ethiopian's 787). EK has no plans to buy these aircraft. You are by far most likely to fly on a 777 with EK and get an inferior seating configuration which Tim Clarke has committed to keep on new 777s.
In an EK 777 there are 10 seats across in Economy (same as in the much larger A380); most other carriers (including US) have 9. And the seat pitch on EK is among the stingiest.
In business EK 777 has 7 seats across versus 6 or fewer for others. So EK have a middle-seat in biz (imagine paying AED30k for a 15 hour flight and having to wake up the passengers either side to visit the toilet). Plus the narrow-shouldered "inclined lie-flat" (i.e. not horizontal) seat itself is the most uncomfortable biz seat of the major airlines.
In fact EK are successful DESPITE their poor equipment. But this and ATC issues will bite eventually, maybe even soon...