U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President for Public Affairs Jonathan Grella issued the following statement on a Congressional Research Service report, unearthed by the Business Travel Coalition via WikiLeaks, finding that U.S. airlines received $155 billion in federal subsidies between 1918 and 1998:
“The Big Three U.S. airlines have constructed themselves an enormous glass house, and their amnesia about their own subsidies has now cost them the credibility of their own core argument for breaking Open Skies agreements. I give all credit to our friends at the Business Travel Coalition for discovering this pivotal bit of evidence that completely alters the landscape of this debate.
“This exposes the fiction that the U.S. airline cartel’s furious and expensive assault on Open Skies is about subsidies. We hope this prompts policymakers and the public to ask: OK, what’s really motivating the campaign to break these agreements? We hope there is something else to dissuade us from by far the most likely conclusion: the Big Three airlines hate competition, and rather than cope with it in the marketplace they will undertake extreme means to stamp it out politically.
“We have long known that the subsidy argument for breaking Open Skies agreements was thin if not downright foolhardy, and now we have strong evidence of that from an unbiased source, the Congressional Research Service. This development, coupled with the inarguable harm rolling back Open Skies would inflict upon American travelers, economic productivity and job creation, should end any discussion over selectively abrogating the agreements. But the Big Three airlines have shown a lot of determination and resources, so we’re resigned to the fact they’ll keep this up, and we’re curious to see what their next whopper is going to be.”