DOHA: U.S. and Qatari diplomats have reached an agreement to maintain Open Skies agreements between the two countries in exchange for greater financial transparency from Qatar Airways, the U.S. State Department announced.
The agreement addresses the long-standing claims by several U.S. carriers, including the three largest, that Qatar and the United Arab Emirates both are violating Open Skies agreements by operating with substantial state subsidies. The Gulf carriers have held firm that they do not benefit from such subsidies.
Under the agreement, Qatar in the year ahead will release public annual reports that include financial statements audited according to international accounting standards. Within two years, it will “publicly disclose significant new transactions with state-owned enterprises and take steps to ensure that such transactions are based on commercial terms.”
Qatar also has agreed not to add any fifth-freedom flights to the U.S., meaning flights to the U.S. originating from a country other than Qatar, according to the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, the coalition leading the charge against the Gulf carriers.
The CEOs of all three of the U.S.’s largest airlines applauded the decision. “Today’s agreement by the state of Qatar is a strong first step in a process for commercial transparency and accountability,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said. “We remain committed to working with the administration [of U.S. President Donald Trump] to address the harmful trade violations by the United Arab Emirates, as well.”
While the US airline CEOs and ALPA have issued press statements akin to victory claims, the reality is that the new US-Qatar “understandings on civil aviation” pact, announced by US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, changes nothing about the Open Skies agreement between the two countries or Qatar Airways’ operations to the US.