For three years Delta, United and American have been complaining that despite being heavily subsidized themselves, and protected from foreign competition in the U.S. market, that it’s not fair that they should have to compete against Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar.
They have sought to have the US limit flights by those 3 airlines, limiting consumer options and raising prices, effectively transferring wealth from US consumers to airline shareholders, despite a signed treaty between the US and Qatar, and between the US and the United Arab Emirates specifically allowing the flights that are at issue (and nowhere banning state subsidies).
This argument went nowhere under the Obama administration. The airlines hoped their case would resonated more with the protectionist leanings of President Trump. The nationalists in the administration lost a key ally when Steve Bannon was pushed out. That left Peter Navarro versus Gary Cohen. Cohen left, but was replaced by relative free trader Larry Kudlow.
In the meantime Qatar settled their dispute essentially giving up nothing. They agreed to greater financial transparency (but there are no limits on subsidies) and they said they do not currently plan to fly between the U.S. and Europe. They haven’t done so in a decade (back when they didn’t have aircraft capable of making the US-Doha journey non-stop) and they don’t need to in any case — owning 20% of British Airways parent IAG and 49% of ‘Air Italy’.
Now the UAE will come to a similar settlement offering more financial transparency (but not limit on any subsidies) and saying they do not currently plan to add additional flights between the US and Europe (or the US and other countries besides the UAE).
Under the budding deal, Dubai-based Emirates and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways would agree to voluntarily open up their accounting books, long accused by the U.S. airlines of obscuring billions in subsidies. The airlines will also assert to the United States that they currently have no plans to add additional flights to the United States from Europe or other destinations outside of the United Arab Emirates.
This ultimately amounts to three years of vitriol for nothing. It lets the US airlines claim they got something (of little value) while allowing the targeted Gulf carriers to go on about their business.