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Warren Dean writes op-ed on Open Skies, Mid-East airline subsidies for The Hill

February 5, 2016

D.C. partner Warren Dean recently penned an op-ed for The Hill on the history of Open Skies Agreements, and how the recent subsidies funneled to Middle East air carriers by their governments “deprive U.S. airlines of the ‘fair and equal’ opportunity to compete.”

Warren’s article, “Mid-East subsidies threaten the integrity of civil air transport,” appeared Feb. 2 in The Hill’s Congress Blog, the publication’s online forum for lawmakers and policy professionals.  

The op-ed describes the colorful history of commercial aviation, which started in 1944 at a conference in Chicago, where U.S. and international aviation delegations tried to determine how civil aviation should proceed in a post-war world.

“The initiative reflected remarkable vision,” Warren writes. “In the years leading up to war, aviation had become an instrument of economic and political rivalry among nations that subsidized their own airlines and frustrated the opportunities of airlines of rival states. The Chicago Conference was designed to stop those practices and to usher in a new era of cooperation among states to foster a civil air transport industry isolated from state sponsored rivalry.”

Since the 1990s, the U.S. has negotiated pro-competitive Open Skies bilateral agreements with its trading partners. The agreements strive to eliminate government interference airline pricing, routes and capacity, “all in a continuing effort to provide more affordable and convenient air services for the flying public.” But, as documented by The Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, a coalition composed of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, the governments of Qatar and the UAE have provided $42 billion in subsidies and other unfair benefits to Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates.

The U.S. government has been slow to act, Warren writes.  But it’s still possible to address these critical aviation issues; in the 1980s, the agreements were changed to address global terrorism threats. “The same kind of leadership and clarity is required of the U.S. government today,” Warren writes. “The international air transport system is far too important to allow states to ignore the rules established in 1944 and recreate the state-sponsored rivalries the founders of the aviation system wisely sought to avoid.”

Warren Dean has represented the U.S. airline industry before regulatory bodies, the U.S. Supreme Court, and in international treaties. In 2013, he briefed the importance of the Open Skies Agreements in a case before the Supreme Court of the United States.  He has served for 25 years as an adjunct professor of aviation and shipping law at Georgetown University Law Center and received the Charles Fahy Distinguished Adjunct Professor Award in 2007.