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Arizona lawmakers say global subsidies threaten local airline jobs

In this May 27, 2015, file photo, American Airlines jets taxi at Miami International Airport, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

PHOENIX — A bipartisan group of Arizona lawmakers wrote a letter to the Trump administration, claiming that foreign government subsidies are jeopardizing airlines and threatening local jobs.

The lawmakers, which included U.S. Reps. Andy Biggs, Kyrsten Sinema, Trent Franks, Paul Gosar, Ruben Gallego, Tom O’Halleran and Raul Grijalva, sent the letter to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.

The lawmakers have claimed that the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have financially-supported their state-owned airlines — Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways — with more than $50 billion since 2004.

The lawmakers are claiming these subsidies are “undermining Arizona jobs and jeopardizing commercial airline service to our state” by allowing the carriers to “increase their capacity without creating new passenger demand, forcing U.S. airlines off routes,” the letter read.

“For every long-haul route that a U.S. airline loses or foregoes due to subsidized Gulf carrier competition, 1,500 American jobs are lost,” the letter read. “This is deeply concerning for the future of the aviation industry in our state, which is home to over 10,600 aviation workers.”

The lawmakers said the subsidies could affect airline service in small communities, such as Flagstaff, Yuma and the Grand Canyon.

The lawmakers also claimed that the foreign government subsidies are violating “important bilateral treaties with the United States” and requested the secretaries enforce the Open Skies Agreement to “protect Arizona jobs.”

The Open Skies Agreement is a transport agreement between the European Union and the United States that allows any airline from either region to fly freely between the two regions. 

According to the lawmakers, more than 1.2 million Americans are employed by the airline industry, which accounts for more than five percent of our national GDP.

In a statement, Biggs said it is the government’s responsibility to “protect American workers when they are the victims of unfair foreign labor practices.”

“In this case, thousands of aviation jobs may disappear if the Gulf carrier subsidies are not ended once and for all,” part of the statement read.

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