Fearing retaliation, JetBlue is asking the U.S. government to lay off its scrutiny of Qatar Airways and Air Italy.
JetBlue is worried that it will be caught in the crosshairs of an ongoing dispute between U.S. legacy carriers and Gulf carriers like Qatar Airways. As the U.S. government vows to “investigate” the link between Qatar Airways and Air Italy, JetBlue fears retaliation.
For JetBlue, who just announced its intention to begin service to London from New York City and Boston starting in 2021, the possibility of retaliation could have a devastating impact on the ability to obtain authority to operate in the EU under the U.S.-EU Open Skies agreement.
JetBlue argued potential EU retaliation “would also have a crippling impact on U.S. passenger carriers seeking new service to the EU.”
A common letter signed by the CEOs of FedEx and Atlas Air, as well as JetBlue, made clear the risks of punishing a carrier under spurious claims of subsidies and tax advantages. You can read the full letter here (.pdf).
Undoubtedly, closing access to global markets will be a punishment that brings higher prices and fewer choices for American travelers, consumers, and shippers.
And the letter takes a moment to paint the utterly absurd logical conclusions of the U.S. carriers:
If one were to accept this logic, Delta’s 49% investment in Virgin Atlantic would mean that Virgin’s flight from London to Dubai is a Delta 7th Freedom flight. Further, American Airlines’ investment in state-owned and state-supported China Southern would turn China Southern’s flights from Beijing to Guangzhou into cabotage byAmerican. As we have explained, the claims are illogical and would turn aviation law on its head.
While I am glad to see this, it won’t stop the bloviation from interest groups like the Partnership For Open and Fair Skies who wish to undermine any competition from carriers in a position of strength. And on the flipside, I’m not sure European regulators would actually escalate tensions, even if Air Italy is unfairly blocked.
More carriers like JetBlue need to speak up and show the duplicity and hypocrisy of U.S. legacy carriers in picking on Air Italy while turning a blind eye to disproportionate subsidies that are propping up weaker carriers like Alitalia or China Southern.