The United Arab Emirates has denied claims from US airlines of lavishing its fast-growing carriers with state subsidies as "false and unacceptable," local media reports said Tuesday.
The three top US airlines last week accused Dubai's Emirates, Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways of receiving subsidies from their governments amounting to US$42 billion (S$57.99).
American Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines, along with US pilot and labour groups, urged Washington to raise the issue with the UAE and Qatar. "These accusations are false and unacceptable. They are baseless," UAE Economy Minister Sultan al-Mansouri was quoted as saying by the Emarat Al-Youm newspaper.
Mansouri said the UAE was "ready to discuss such claims, on the condition of receiving reports that would prove that UAE carriers received government support." "Such accusations harm relations between countries," he said.
"The word 'subsidy' is misused in many situations," Mansouri was quoted as saying by the Khaleej Times. "Unless there's proof and you put it there, you should not use the word subsidy."
In a 55-page report, the US airlines and labour groups said the three Gulf fliers had benefitted unfairly from huge interest-free loans, subsidised airport charges, government protection on fuel losses and below-market labour costs that are considered unfair subsidies by the World Trade Organisation.
Western airlines have long complained about competition from the three Gulf carriers, which have turned their home airports into major hubs on transcontinental routes.