The UAE’s aviation chief will hold “technical talks” with US officials next month during which the subject of airline subsidies will be discussed.
This follows claims by airlines in the United States that their Arabian Gulf competitors benefit from unfair state subsidies worth billions of dollars – a claim denied by the region’s three big carriers.
“We will carry technical discussions with the US government in mid-July,” Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, the director general of the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority, told The National. “We will travel to the US for the meeting.”
The dispute between US and Gulf airlines has been simmering for almost two years, with claim and counterclaim of alleged anti-competitive practices. However, both sides have avoided tit-for-tat allegations in recent months.
Mr Al Suwaidi did not disclose expectations for the outcome of the talks. However, he said: “We will listen to their point of view.”
Asked if the Gulf airlines will take part in the talks, he said: “We haven’t decided on the individuals who will be part of the negotiations.”
An Etihad spokesman said the airline had not received a meeting request or update from the US government.
“However, we submitted our formal response to the false allegations made against us by the big three US carriers last May,” he said. “We respect the process and we await the outcome of the US government’s deliberations.”
Earlier this month, Emirates airline’s president, Tim Clark, said he “remains optimistic” for a resolution of the dispute over open skies.
He said that Gulf airlines were a “force of good”, as they brought more choice to consumers and “raised the bar in many ways”.
Ed Bastian, the new chief executive of Atlanta-based Delta, said this month that the US government was concerned about the open skies dispute.
The UAE-US aviation talks come as the UK and the EU are assessing the regulatory impact of Brexit on the aviation sector. The UK Civil Aviation Authority has been heavily involved in European policy and agreements for decades, but after the country’s vote to leave the EU, its ability to influence future aviation policy is in doubt.
Emirates declined to comment on the talks while Qatar Airways was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.
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