Focus Areas

Ensuring Free and Fair Commercial Aviation

Open Skies


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Commercial aviation plays a key role in the overall U.S.-U.A.E. trade and commercial relationship by allowing for the free movement of goods and people.

This sector has in large part flourished thanks to the U.A.E. and U.S. Open Skies Agreement. The agreement, signed in 2002, gives U.S. and U.A.E. carriers equal access to each other’s markets, providing greater consumer choice and better service. Since 2002, the U.S. and U.A.E. have seen an expansion in flight routes and services, increasing broader U.S.-U.A.E. trade, investment, and tourism. Emirates now flies to 12 U.S. destinations and Etihad Airways to 3.

This foundational agreement supports over $27.7 billion in annual bilateral trade and contributes to a $14.0+ billion U.S. trade surplus, the United States’ third largest trade surplus. Notably, the agreement has also led U.A.E. airlines such as Emirates and Etihad to place numerous multi-billion-dollar orders for Boeing commercial aircrafts, translating into hundreds of thousands of American jobs across the United States. At the same time, expanded air traffic through the U.A.E. has helped transform the U.A.E. into a major global transportation, logistics, and tourism hub.

The U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council has been a key advocate of the bilateral Open Skies Agreement, pushing back against accusations regarding alleged violations of the agreement by U.A.E. airlines. The Business Council and its members sent letters to the Obama and Trump administrations as well as Congress urging them to take a fact-based view of Open Skies.

The Business Council has also been vocal in the press about the importance of the agreement to the bilateral partnership, commenting in The Hill, The National, and Arabian Business.

At the same time, the Council has published a number of reports showcasing the importance of Open Skies. In 2013, the Council released a landmark report on the U.S.-U.A.E. Commercial Aviation relationship. Then, in December 2017, the Business Council published a Commercial Aviation Update after U.A.E. airlines placed more than $42 billion in new orders for U.S. commercial aircraft, bringing the total value of such orders over the last decade to over $190 billion.

Finally, Open Skies has been a key motif through Business Council programming, whether Board Meetings, Economic Policy Dialogue dinners, or other events. In 2017, a delegation from the U.A.E. Embassy in Washington, D.C. including H.E. Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, and Danny Sebright, President of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council, visited a Boeing plant in Charleston, South Carolina to highlight the importance of Open Skies for U.S. job creation. Moreover, in April 2020, the Business Council hosted Sir Tim Clark of Emirates Airline and Mr. Tony Douglas of Etihad Airways for a joint briefing, where both leaders underscored the benefits of Open Skies.

The U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council will continue to promote free and fair commercial aviation by sharing accurate information with officials, the business community, and the general public and by creating platforms for dialogue on this important issue.