US, UAE Strike Open Skies Agreement

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The United States and the UAE have struck a deal in which they “strongly reaffirmed the 2002 UAE-US Air Transport Agreement and the fundamental principles of Open Skies”, following years of dispute between the regions’ carriers.

According to USA Today, Emirates – accused of unfair competition by rivals Delta, American Airlines and United Airlines – has agreed to “voluntarily open up their accounting books by publishing annual financial statements ‘consistent with internationally recognized accounting standards’”.

The report also states that Emirates currently has no plans to launch direct “Fifth Freedom” flights between the US and destinations other than the United Arab Emirates, the airline’s home country.

The Associated Press reported that an agreement was signed between US Assistant Secretary of State Manisha Singh and Emirati ambassador to the US, Yousef al-Otaiba, after extended negotiations. The financial disclosures are an attempt to assuage concerns among US airlines that Emirates received substantial subsidies from the UAE government, resulting in unfair competition.

The US airlines also objected to Emirates launching so-called “Fifth Freedom” flights, which would take passengers from the US to other countries without a stop in the UAE. The deal does not mean an end to government subsidies of Emirates; rather it both acknowledges that such payments can hurt competition and are “neither uncommon nor necessarily problematic.”

or its part Emirates said that it “welcomes the conclusion of informal technical discussions between delegations representing the Governments of the UAE and the United States”, and stressed that “contrary to some media reports, there is no freeze on any of the operating rights prescribed in the Air Transport Agreement or any tacit undertakings to do so”.

“The Record of Discussion also makes clear that the UAE and its designated carriers are, and have been at all times in full compliance with the Agreement, and that there were never any violations of the Agreement by UAE carriers”, added the Gulf carrier.

The US came to a similar deal with Qatar regarding Qatar Airways in January 2018.