NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The big three U.S. airlines apparently face an uphill battle as they seek a review of whether Open Skies treaties have been violated, enabling rapid growth by three Gulf airlines financed by massive government subsidies.
Arrayed against American (AAL) , Delta (DAL) and United (UAL) are not only the Gulf carriers and their wealthy governments, but also FedEx (FDX) , consumer groups, and even another airline, JetBlue (JBLU) , which has a partnership with Emirates Airlines.
So far Boeing (BA) , which sits squarely in the middle of the conflict and also is one of the most influential U.S. companies, has chosen to sit it out, saying only that it is committed to "open and fair competition."
The governments of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the two largest emirates, have provided about $40 billion in subsidies to three airlines -- Qatar Airways, the flag carrier of Qatar; and Etihad Airways and Emirates, flag carriers of the UAE -- according to a report compiled over two years for the big three U.S. carriers and provided to TheStreet by an airline industry source who asked not to be identified.
The report paints a chilling picture of the Mideast governments' efforts to establish airlines funded by subsidies which have been systematically covered up in order to mask violations of Open Skies agreements.
"I would say this is the greatest set of facts on an issue that you would ever want to have on your side," said Lee Moak, who last month left a post as president of the Air Line Pilots Association to become president of a new organization, Americans for Fair Skies, which is dedicated to seeking fair treatment on Open Skies for the U.S. carriers.
"It's a matter of getting the facts out above the noise in Washington, given the amount of money the other side is spending" on lobbyists and public relations firms, Moak said.
Moak, who is on leave as a Delta pilot, said the three U.S. carriers want "to have the U.S. government enter into consultation and have a discussion under the construct of the Open Skies agreement," which requires that "competition is fair and the playing field is level."
Ultimately, the secretaries of transportation and state would determine whether Open Skies agreements are being violated.
Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia questioned whether the report will have any effect.
"There's no battle, it's just talking points," Aboulafia said. "There's nothing there. What are you going to do? Violate a treaty that we signed?"