Partnership for Open & Fair Skies Statement on Secretary Pompeo’s Commitment to Address Qatar’s Open Skies Violations

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 10, 2019) – In response to comments made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding the administration’s work to enforce the Open Skies agreement between the U.S. and Qatar, the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies issued the following statement:

“We sincerely appreciate that President Trump and Secretary Pompeo are carefully examining Qatar Airways’ stake in Air Italy. We’re also grateful for the broad congressional support for ending trade violations that harm American airline workers, and for the members of Congress who continue to call for action,” said Scott Reed, campaign manager for the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies. “There is bipartisan concern that Qatar Airways is violating last year’s agreement with the United States – making its finances more opaque instead of less and using Air Italy as a proxy to undermine the U.S. airline industry. The future of this industry – and the jobs it supports – depend on the Trump administration holding Qatar accountable for its trade-cheating actions.”

At today’s hearing, senators from both parties raised concerns that Qatar is violating a landmark agreement negotiated with the Trump administration last year designed to end its violations of the bilateral Open Skies agreement. Qatar’s state-owned airline, Qatar Airways, has attempted to circumvent the agreement using its stake in Air Italy, which Qatar is now fueling with subsidies to launch new flights to the U.S.

An excerpt of the transcript from the hearing is included below:

Senator Menendez: January marked the one year anniversary of landmark agreements between US and Qatar regarding government subsidies to Qatar Airways, a state owned airline. In addition to committing to financial transparency, in a side letter to the agreement, the Qatari government mentioned that there is no intention to launch additional fifth freedom flights, flights launched from Qatar, but picking up passengers in Europe before flying to US destinations. Yet at the same time as the agreement was being negotiated, Qatar Airways acquired a 49% stake in Air Italy, a formerly struggling regional Italian carrier, and rebranded it as an international carrier with flights to five US destinations from Milan. That runs directly counter to the one-year agreement. Are you aware of this and if so, what efforts are underway to enforce the agreements that are in place?

Secretary Pompeo: I am aware of it. I have personally engaged in this issue and we are working to make sure every party to those agreements complies with every element of those agreements. In fact, I will engage again tomorrow with several of the parties. The US government sees what’s going on, and we’re working to put this agreement- we think it was a good agreement and we’re trying to ensure it’s enforced.

Senator Risch: People think we’re divided on things, but those last two issues- this committee is uniformly in favor of the discrimination against our carriers that has taken place by the Middle East carriers, and secondly, the support of the Juan Guiado administration is so important to all of us. We sincerely appreciate the admin’s efforts in that regard and we’ll support it 100%.