American Airlines has notified Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways that it will not extend its codeshare partnerships with both Middle East carriers beyond their expiration dates of March 2018, American confirmed Wednesday. It sent the notifications on June 29 in protest of what it and the other major U.S. carriers characterize as illegal subsidies from the governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to the respective OneWorld alliance partners.
“In light of our ongoing dispute over the Open Skies agreements, American Airlines notified Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways on June 29 of our decision to terminate our codeshare relationships,” said American in a written statement. “Given the extremely strong public stance that American has taken on the ME3 issue, we have reached the conclusion that the codesharing relationships between American and these carriers no longer make sense for us.”
The so-called ME3 consists of Qatar and Etihad Airways as well as Emirates Airline, all of which the U.S. carriers accuse of violating Open Skies agreements through their governments’ support of their operations. The dispute dates to 2015, when American, United and Delta Air Lines called on the administration of then President Barack Obama to modify or end Open Skies trade agreements the U.S. negotiated with Qatar and the UAE between 1999 and 2002. Now the airlines and their lobbyists have taken their complaints to the Trump Administration, which they hope will prove more receptive.
In its statement issued Wednesday, American said the ending of the codeshare pacts would not hurt it financially.
“This decision has no material financial impact on American and is an extension of our stance against the illegal subsidies that these carriers receive from their governments,” it said. “We are committed to doing everything we can to continue to support our team members and ensure that there is fair competition between American and the Gulf carriers.”
In a written response to a request for comment from AIN, Etihad Airways expressed “disappointment” in American's decision, calling it “anti-competitive and anti-consumer.”
“This action will reduce choices for consumers and may result in higher fares for travellers to and from the United States,” the Abu Dhabi-based airline said. “Etihad Airways and many of the leading consumer and business groups in the United States have categorically rejected the allegations of American and the two other dominant U.S. carriers regarding violations of the relevant air transportation agreements. Etihad Airways’ six daily flights to the United States in no way threaten American Airlines, which together with its regional partner American Eagle, operates 6,700 flights daily to 350 destinations in 50 countries.”
“We are committed to the U.S. market and American consumers, and are taking all possible measures to ensure that the flying public is not harmed by this decision,” it added. “We will continue our interline relationship with American Airlines to help ensure continued connnectivity to secondary markets.”
For its part, Qatar Airways has not yet responded to AIN's inquiries on the matter.