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Qatar set to make disclosure commitments in subsidy row

Qatar Airways is set to make financial disclosure and service commitments under a soon-to-be-announced agreement between Qatar and the USA.

The Oneworld Alliance carrier will adopt international accounting standards, issue annual reports and audited results, as well as commit to not flying fifth-freedom routes to the USA, Bloomberg reports and sources confirm. The deal will reportedly be announced on 30 January.

The agreement between Qatari and US officials follows nearly three years of pressure by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, as well as their labour unions, for the US government to limit what they claim amounts to capacity dumping in the US under open skies.

Qatar Airways, as well as Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways in the United Arab Emirates, have received more than $42 billion in government subsidies that has allowed them to expand to the USA at a rate far exceeding demand, the US carriers claim.

“This landmark action will help create a level and fair playing field for American Airlines and other US carriers," says Doug Parker, chairman and chief executive of American, in a statement. "We are extremely appreciative of the president and his administration for their dogged determination to enforce US trade agreements and stand up for American jobs."

Parker has previously said that fifth-freedom routes, for example those operated by Emirates from Athens and Milan to the USA, drove the US carriers' push for what they dub "fair skies".

“This would be a landmark milestone for the American airline industry that will protect our workers and ensure that our foreign competitors play by the rules and do not undermine our international agreements," says Peter Carter, chief legal officer of Delta, in a statement.

Not every US carrier supports limits on the Gulf carriers. Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines have opposed limiting open skies for Emirates, Etihad and Qatar.

"We are very much in favour of open skies," said Gary Kelly, chief executive of Southwest, in December 2017. "We expect our governments to uphold the vision of the treaties that have been signed."

Hawaiian takes advantage of open skies to serve countries like Australia and Japan, as well as partner with a number of global carriers to feed its flights to Hawaii. JetBlue, which does not operate any long-haul international flights, partners with Emirates and other airlines at its major bases.

Southwest does not have any international partnerships but, since introducing a new reservations system in 2017, is considering adding them in the future.

The US State Department was not immediately available for comment.

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