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Emirates Airline filed a lengthy response this week attempting to explain the $6.8 billion in subsidies and benefits it has received from the United Arab Emirates government to fund its airline in violation of Open Skies agreements.

The Partnership for Open & Fair Skies responded with the following statement: “Emirates can submit as many pages as it wants, but it still won’t paper over what has been well-documented: Emirates has received billions in subsidies and unfair benefits from the treasury of the UAE. Our investigation shows that these massive subsidies have allowed Emirates, Etihad and Qatar airlines to expand far beyond what market forces could ever support, distorting international competition and tilting the playing field to its advantage.

“With American jobs at stake, the time for action is increasingly urgent. We respectfully ask that the U.S. government request consultations with Qatar and the UAE, and stand up against these unfair government subsidies that violate our Open Skies agreement.”

Deflecting from the facts

During a press conference to talk about the report, Emirates’ CEO Tim Clark was reported as saying that Delta chooses to give $7 billion to shareholders instead of using it to improve its product. While Delta has returned $3.2 billion to investors since 2013, the Atlanta-based carrier over that same timeframe has invested $4 billion in aircraft acquisitions and $5 billion in customer experience and product initiatives including terminal renovations in New York and Los Angeles, premium cabin upgrades, customer-focused mobile technology, expanded in-flight entertainment, dining and lie-flat seats, enhanced Sky Club experiences and more.

Delta has also been named to Fortune magazine’s top 50 World’s Most Admired Companies in addition to being named the most admired airline for the fourth time in five years. Additionally, Delta has ranked No. 1 in the Business Travel News Annual survey for four consecutive years, a first for any airline.

On Jan. 28, The Partnership for Open & Fair Skies released a study showing that Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways have received more than $42 billion in government subsidies and benefits from their home governments, in violation of Open Skies agreements. U.S. airlines, including Delta, say the subsidies have created unfair competition in the industry.

Support continues to grow for the U.S. government to take a closer look at the issue. More than 20 U.S. Senators signed on to a bi-partisan letter in June urging consultations with Qatar and UAE, as did 262 House members in May. The United States Conference of Mayors, which includes 1,400 mayors from across the country, passed a resolution at its annual conference with bipartisan support to do the same.

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