Richard Anderson, the former CEO of Delta Air Lines recently named to be the new chief of Amtrak, has dropped a bombshell that should be the final nail in the coffin for the Big Three U.S. airlines’ crusade to roll back our Open Skies aviation agreements.
Recall that Delta has led a prolonged and expensive lobbying campaign against Open Skies agreements with Qatar and United Arab Emirates on the grounds that carriers flagged in those two countries are unfairly subsidized by their governments. The campaign began under Anderson’s leadership; he himself did some memorable interviews on the subject.
Now that he’s no longer an airline guy, Anderson not only dropped the subsidies charade, he blew it up completely. Anderson went all-in on his support for “state supported” transportation companies in a Bloomberg News article published Friday:
“'You’re probably not going to build another freeway, and you’re probably not going to build another airport in those places,' Anderson said, noting the need for U.S. subsidies for rail travel, much as Congress appropriates large sums for U.S. highways. Amtrak also operates under federal subsidy, which helps to keep its average fares low, although the appropriate level of congressional generosity for the rail system has been hotly debated over the years…His position on subsidies is noteworthy. During his nine years at Delta, he became famous for the ferocity with which he battled subsidies he believed competitors enjoyed, from sources including the Export-Import Bank and a trio of Middle Eastern governments that U.S. airlines accuse of giving unfair aid to their carriers. "
In short, the outrage Anderson previously expressed over subsidies was a put-on aimed at tilting the playing field further in favor of domestic carriers—not righting a legitimate wrong, not grounded in any sincerity or substance. Not that we didn’t know this before, but the Big Three’s sob story on Open Skies is a fabrication, and should be received as such by the Trump administration.