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United Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines have found it difficult to rally any supporters in the travel industry in their battle with Gulf carriers Etihad, Emirates, and Qatar Airways.
And now the U.S. carriers will have to contend with open opposition from Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott and other leading travel brands, too.
They’ve received support from the labor unions for pilots, maintenance workers, and flight attendants that they do business with — and that will likely call in the favor when it comes time to negotiate new contracts. They’ve also received support from mayors of cities where they have hubs, like Charlotte, NC and Houston, TX, and from mid-size cities that would rather not see their flight load decrease.
Leading the industry opposition to the U.S. carriers’ moves has been the U.S. Travel Association, which has historically worked closely with the airlines. Its President and CEO Roger Dow has been the most vocal.
In an open letter [embedded below] sent yesterday to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker (whose family owns Hyatt Hotels), Dow called on the officials to ignore the alarmism of the U.S. carriers.
“The legacy carriers’ concerns are, in fact, but one piece of a larger puzzle, which has significant implications beyond the six carriers directly involved in the dispute,” Dow’s letter reads. “We believe that decisions regarding the future of Open Skies agreements should be made reflecting the impact on the entire travel, hospitality, manufacturing and transportation industries.”
The letter was co-signed by heads of a dozen hospitality companies, CEOs of three U.S. carriers, and the heads of the top three meetings and conventions groups. The opposition of JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes was known beforehand, but this is the first time the leaders have come together to issue a joint statement.
The full list of travel and tourism CEOs follows:
Arne Sorenson, Marriott International President & CEO
Mark S. Hoplamazian, Hyatt Hotels Corporation President & CEO
Christopher J. Nassetta, Hilton Worldwide President & CEO
Stephen P. Joyce, Choice Hotels International President & CEO
W. Edward Walter, Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc. President & CEO
Jim Abrahamson, Interstate Hotels & Resorts CEO
Gary Loveman, Caesars Entertainment Corp. President & CEO
George Markantonis, Las Vegas Sands Corporation President & COO
Kirk Kinsell, Loews Hotels & Resorts President & CEO
Geoff Ballotti, Wyndham Worldwide President & CEO
Elie Maalouf, InterContinental Hotels Group CEO, The Americas
James Murren, MGM Resorts International Chairman & CEO
Robin Hayes, JetBlue Airways President & CEO
Bradley Tilden, Alaska Airlines CEO
Mark B. Dunkerley, Hawaiian Airlines President & CEO
Conventions and Meetings
Karen Kotowski, Convention Industry Council CEO
David DuBois, International Association of Exhibitions & Events President & CEO
Deborah Sexton, Professional Convention Management Association President & CEO