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UAE and US agree to end Open Skies row

Aircraft in an open blue sky

The United Arab Emirates and the US have decided to reaffirm the 2002 UAE-US Air Transport Agreement (ATA) and the principals of the Open Skies Agreement after years of arguments.

The governments of both nations have been locked in a row in which American carriers appealed to the US congress to review the Open Skies agreement over claims that Gulf airlines have an unfair advantage due to alleged state aid. The Gulf carriers retaliated with claims that their US rivals also received state aid, including subsidies to keep them afloat following the 11 September attacks.

Words have been flung back-and-forth over the last few years, with the US ‘Big Three’ forming the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies coalition and Etihad appealing directly to the US government to keep the Open Skies agreement.

Last year, American Airlines ended its codeshare agreements with Qatar and Etihad amid the dispute.

Now, both governments have agreed to maintain the conditions of the Open Skies agreement, “including all rights to conduct international air transportation”.

The UAE maintains that it has been and always will comply with the terms of the agreement.

As an outcome of constructive discussions, all current and future rights for carriers from both sides remain in place, with airlines free to add, reduce or adjust flights and services via third countries.

Both nations have said they will promote best practice when issuing audited financial reports in order to be transparent about any funding carriers may or may not receive.

The UAE is the US’s largest export market in the Middle East and its carriers are the largest buyers of American commercial aircraft outside of the US.

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