UAE’s Etihad chief to US: Keep the skies open

Published June 2nd, 2015 - 06:18 GMT

UAE's Etihad Airways has issued its strongest response yet to the joint campaign by Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines to block competition and roll back the benefits of Open Skies, urging the US Government to "keep the skies open."

The national carrier has refuted claims made by the Big Three US carriers about its finances, saying the equity funding and shareholder loans provided by the Abu Dhabi Government fully comply with the US-UAE Air Services Agreement and all other applicable rules.

In its submission to the US Department of State, the US Department of Transportation and the US Department of Commerce, Etihad shows that the US carriers have gained more than $70 billion in benefits from US Government authorities, and through legal processes such as Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, over the last 15 years.

Etihad Airways’ submission includes detailed information about the airline, its financial strategy and its business performance.

The UAE airline has disclosed that the Abu Dhabi government has invested $14.3 billion since beginning operations in 2013, of which $9.1 billion was provided in equity funding and a further $5.2 billion was provided in shareholder loans.

The airline also said it doesn’t receive government subsidies or sovereign guarantees and, contrary to the claims of some competitors, it does not receive free or discounted fuel or airport services in Abu Dhabi.

Since 2003, Etihad Airways has raised in excess of $11 billion in long-term funding through the global financial markets, including $3.7 billion debt funding raised in 2014. 

Approximately $5 billion of the airline’s borrowings have been repaid since 2003, including $800 million in 2014. 

Commenting on the submission, James Hogan said: “Our story is one of an airline that has chosen to challenge the global status quo, bringing new competition to markets that have for too long been dominated by the major legacy airlines.”

“We focus on making money by providing world class, innovative, re-imagined and value-for-money product and services to our guests,” he said.

“In many markets, airlines react to our new competition by improving their own offer to consumers. It is ironic that in the home of free competition, a market in which we account for only a tiny fraction of one per cent of international departures, we have instead been attacked,” Hogan said.

In addition to a rebuttal of the Big Three US carriers’ report, Etihad Airways’ submission to the US Government also includes three reports commissioned from independent and respected global expert consultancies.

This story has been edited from the source material.

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