Etihad airways CEO James Hogan has responded to claims from US carriers that the Open Skies agreements have led to unfair competition in the aviation industry.
In his first public comments since Delta, United and American Airlines launched a campaign against gulf carriers, Hogan praised Open Skies as “a model of success, generating enormous benefits for travellers and for airlines in the US, UAE and around the world”.
An Open Skies agreement allows airlines to operate services between countries without restrictions.
US carriers have accused their competitors from the gulf region of receiving more than $40 billion in government subsidies since 2004 and want the government to address the claims of unfair competition.
Hogan warned against action which would restrict competitive choice for millions of US and international air travellers in markets which the US airlines have chosen not to serve.
“As one of the newest national airlines anywhere in the world, we’ve had to create everything from scratch: every bit of product, every bit of our operations, every bit of our infrastructure.
“Etihad is a David, a David who’s been facing Goliaths since 2003, when we started. In virtually every market we’ve entered, we’ve had to face existing competitors, with established businesses, established infrastructure, established sales and marketing, established brands, and established customer bases.
“In many cases, those established airlines were gifted amazing infrastructure – airports, terminals, slots, landing rights – over decades,” he said.
Hogan admitted that Etihad’s success has been helped by its geographical position as the gulf is at the “centre of today’s trade and travel routes”.
In his speech Hogan outlined the economic contribution the airline delivers to the US directly through its daily flights between Abu Dhabi and six US destinations.
He said he regards Etihad as a “friend of the United States” and cited the airline rostering a B787-9 Dreamliner, an American-built aircraft, onto its daily service to Washington, DC.
“Certainly, the bonds between the UAE and the US are incredibly strong, and we believe Etihad Airways has always reflected that in our business operations.
“We are major customers of Boeing, of GE, of Sabre, and of many other American businesses. We work with strategic American partners… we work with US financial institutions, with US tourist boards, with US airports. Our commitment to the US economy supports more than 200,000 jobs,” said Hogan.