USA airline CEOs ask to meet with Tillerson on Gulf carriers

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The three biggest US airlines asked for a meeting with new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to discuss their long-held contention that billions of government subsidies enable the Persian Gulf carriers to compete unfairly for passengers.

American, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines charge that Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways have received billions of dollars in subsidies from their governments, allowing them to offer below-market fares and violating so-called open-skies treaties.

"We are writing to bring to your attention an issue of utmost importance to the future of our industry: the massive subsidization of three state-owned Gulf carriers - Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates - and the significant harm this subsidized competition is causing to USA airlines and U.S.jobs", the letter, sent on Wednesday, said.

Officials under former President Barack Obama convened talks on the topic but did not make the progress USA airlines expected, Delta has said.

Under changes promised by President Donald Trump, who campaigned heavily on fighting against countries taking advantage of trade deals with the United States, the largest USA carriers are hoping for a crackdown on foreign interference in American markets.

Airlines specifically have expressed optimism that Trump, who campaigned heavily on strengthening USA businesses, will fight against countries taking advantage of deals with the United States.

Etihad Aviation Group CEO James Hogan and other executives are now waiting to see if new President Donald Trump reopens the Open Skies debate.

The CEOs asked for the meeting in a letter posted on the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies website.

"We are not flying into any further points in the U.S.", Hogan said Wednesday to local media.

"In regards to how that's addressed moving forward, we have to wait and see", he said. The Middle Eastern carriers deny receiving subsidies, and they have allies in some smaller USA airlines, including JetBlue Airways, and cargo carrier FedEx, which oppose renegotiating the airline treaties.