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America’s Biggest Airlines Echo Trump’s Trade Rhetoric

The election is fueling protectionist sentiment that fits nicely with changes big carriers want from Washington.
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Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Much of corporate America may cringe over some of Donald Trump’s policy positions, in particular his stance on trade. But the billionaire’s rhetoric bears a striking resemblance to arguments that have been made by a critical segment of the American business community—U.S. airlines and their unions.

The three largest American carriers contend that three rivals in the Middle East, subsidized by the governments of United Arab Emirates and Qatar, don’t compete fairly on international routes. Emirates, Qatar Airways Ltd., and Etihad Airways PJSC threaten the U.S. airline industry and some 300,000 jobs, according to the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, a lobby group funded by American Airlines Group Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., and United Continental Holdings Inc. Seven unions that represent pilots and flight attendants are also on board.