Aug. 30 (UPI) -- The top three U.S. airlines met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday to ask for help competing with state-owned airline companies in the Middle East they say are unfairly subsidized.
Etihad Airways and Emirates are each owned by the United Arab Emirates, while Qatar Airways is owned by the Qatari government. And the CEOs of Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines argue that those airlines receive "massive, unfair" state subsidies, which is not allowed under the international Open Skies agreement.
"We appreciate the opportunity to speak with the Trump administration about the threat that the massive Gulf carrier subsidies pose to 1.2 million American workers and the harm that will only continue if our Open Skies agreements aren't enforced," said Jill Zuckman, chief spokeswoman for the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, a coalition of the three major U.S. airlines and several airline employee lobbies and unions, The Hill reported.
She added: "We look forward to working with the administration to protect American jobs and defend the U.S. aviation industry from trade cheating."
The three U.S. airline companies have been making allegations about unfair subsidies for several years, while the Middle Eastern airlines have repeatedly denied them.
"The methods employed by the U.S. legacy carriers to discredit Emirates have been surprising and frankly, repugnant. We do not underestimate their lobbying prowess, but facts are facts," said Emirates President Tim Clark in 2015.
Not all U.S. airline companies are on the side of the big three companies. Hawaiian Airlines and JetBlue Airways have said they don't want to renegotiate the Open Skies agreement, travel news site Skift reported. And FedEx also has opposed the measure because it has a major shipping hub in Dubai that operates under the same agreement.
Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, FedEx and shipping company Atlas formed a group called U.S. Airlines for Open Skies to oppose the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies' attempts to change the Open Skies agreement.
The group recently launched an ad campaign to oppose their airline counterparts.
"The legacy carriers don't speak for all -- or even most -- U.S. airlines," the group said in one ad.