*US scrutinising Qatar Airways' stake in Air Italy; JetBlue, FedEx, Atlas concerned about EU retaliation; JetBlue launching flights New York to London in 2021
The US government should not restrict Qatar Airways or Air Italy from flying to the United States because it may lead to the unravelling of other aviation agreements around the world, three US airlines said in a letter to officials on Wednesday.
Washington is scrutinising state-owned Qatar Airways' acquisition of 49% of Air Italy, which has been flying to US destinations since June.
In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, JetBlue Airways Corp and cargo carriers FedEx Corp and Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc said restricting the rights of Qatar Airways and Air Italy could lead to retaliation against US carriers.
"For JetBlue, who just announced its intention to begin service to London from New York City and Boston starting in 2021, the possibility of retaliation could have a devastating impact on the ability to obtain authority to operate in the EU under the US-EU Open Skies agreement," the airlines said.
The letter was referring to possible retaliation from the European Union and said restrictions "would also have a crippling impact on US passenger carriers seeking new service to the EU."
It was signed by the chief executive officers of the airlines.
"Undoubtedly, closing access to global markets will be a punishment that brings higher prices and fewer choices for American travellers, consumers, and shippers."
JetBlue is also considering European destinations beyond London for future flights.
Qatar Airways has said its stake in Air Italy was "fully compliant" with the 2018 US-Qatar Understandings, an additional pact that accompanied the US-Qatar Open Skies agreement.
Qatar Air has had a long-running feud with American, which joined with peers to argue that the airline was among Mideast operators benefiting from state aid. In the wake of that spat Qatar sought to buy about 10% of American, but dropped the plan in August 2017 after US unions voiced their opposition and American Airlines Group CEO Doug Parker called the move “puzzling and concerning.”
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