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Open Skies Trade Agreements Will Make American Flying Great Again

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

I am a libertarianish conservative who proudly voted for Donald J. Trump for President.  I, like most Americans, hate flying because of the hassle when you go through invasive TSA screening and do not like the fact that most airlines treat people like passengers on a crappy bus service.  Our nation’s big airlines have failed us, and they nickel and dime flyers when we want to bring an extra bag or want to make a last-minute change to a flight.  In short, flying is not fun, and both the government and airlines have made it worse.

One reason is the lack of competition.  Competition leads to better service and lower prices. Competition is good and helps consumers. The Open Skies agreements are an effort to increase domestic competition and to help bring consumers better services. If you have ever flown on a foreign airline, you immediately notice better service by flight attendants, a more comfortable seat and superior quality of the experience.  Pressure from market forces are needed to incentivize American airlines to treat consumers better.

I am no fan of most trade agreements, because they tend to hamper the United States in trade negotiations.  A few days ago, President Trump signed an order imposing tariffs on goods coming from highly protectionist countries like South Korea. This is a great example of the Trump Administration fighting back against unfair trade agreements by imposing a handful of tariffs on the manufacturers of solar panels and washing machines to leverage better access to Asian markets.

I was quoted in McClatchy as saying that this would help President Trump to leverage a renegotiation of trade deals like NAFTA. The Open Skies agreement are a completely different ball of wax.  Those agreements are pushing airlines to be more competitive and to stop treating humans like cattle, with sub-par services and high prices.  Competition is good and will force the domestic air carriers to be better or lose customers.

Ken Klukowski wrote in Breitbart that “NeverTrumpers are allegedly trying to convince President Donald Trump that he does not need to enforce Open Skies agreements that protect American air carriers, but the nation’s largest airlines and 300 Members of Congress are crying foul.” In fact, the opposite may be true.  

The Washington Free Beacon reported on January 9, 2018 that “The partnership (opposing Open Skies) represents legacy carriers Delta, American, and United Airlines, and is advocating for restricting open skies agreements with Qatar Airways, Emirates Airline, and Etihad Airways. Its top-hired PR firm is SKDKnickerbocker, which is run by former Obama aides and Democratic strategists.”  Seems like the Never-Ever-Trump movement is in alliance with those who want to kill Open Skies agreements.

The left wing firm employs known former Obama Administration communications staffers, Anita Dunn and Bill Burton, and the firm was payed about $1.7 million according to another Free Beacon report. The big three legacy airlines include Delta, American and United have been pulling out all the stops to get rid of these agreements that merely allow some competition.  

About 100 Open Skies agreements have been negotiated with other nations and they have benefitted American consumers. These agreements take governments out of the business of routing planes, limiting the numbers of flights and cost to consumers.  These agreements let the market, not governments, regulate the experience of flying. Instead of paying millions to enrich former Obama Administration officials, the airlines would be better served by using that money to produce a better product and service.  The left’s goal is to use the government to restrict flights by Gulf carriers like Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. 

In defense of the airlines, government has created some of their problems.  All airlines are hurt when the government treats every passenger as if they are on the terrorist watch list and subjects them to a potential strip search just to get on a flight.  The government has also implemented taxes in a way that encourages the airlines to hammer passengers with exorbitant fees to check extra bags or to change a flight.  

Yet, limiting competition is not the answer – negotiating better tax policy and a less intrusive screening process is the solution.

I am a firm supporter of President Trump and I support Open Skies agreements.  I want my flying experience to be better.  This Emirates Airlines ad makes a better case that I ever could as to how much better the experience can be on foreign airlines than some of the legacy carriers.  Let’s keep the skies open and encourage our American airlines to make flying great again.

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