Led by United Airlines, the big three US carriers have embarked on yet another campaign against the three major Gulf carriers.

This time their specific target is Air Italy, the Italian carrier that is 49% owned by Qatar Airways and which is expanding its transatlantic services with routes such as Milan to New York, Miami and Los Angeles.

United, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines claim this is a violation of the US-Qatar Open Skies agreement, an argument that is transparently without foundation.

Qatar Airways’ stake in Air Italy fully complies with European Union (EU) rules. Under EU-US Open Skies, the Italian carrier is free to operate those transatlantic flights just as American, Delta and United are free to fly to EU countries. But the US carriers enjoy a huge advantage in this all-important market because of their immunized alliances with British Airways (American), Air France-KLM (Delta) and Lufthansa (United). Together with their European legacy partners, they overwhelm the transatlantic market just as they dominate the US domestic market, where US cabotage laws do not permit any foreign competition.

But even if Air Italy were somehow breaking EU-US Open Skies rules (which it is not), the US-Qatar Open Skies agreement fully allows fifth freedom flights. The new “understanding” agreed to with the Trump administration early in 2018 did not change anything in the Qatar or UAE Open Skies terms.

Qatar said Qatar Airways had no intention of launching fifth freedom flights (like the mercury-raising Dubai-Milan-New York route operated by Emirates) and it has stood by its word. But such a route would still be legitimate within the Open Skies terms.

The three US carriers, meanwhile, will be among the world’s most profitable in 2018 and are forecast to repeat that achievement in 2019 (see forecast, page 14). Their profitability has been hard-earned and is good for their employees—who enjoy industry leading compensation—and good for investors and passengers, who are finally flying on US airlines that operate all-new fleets and deliver, at least with American and Delta, world-class service.

IATA forecasts that North American carriers will earn a $16.6 billion net profit in 2019, up from $14.7 billion in 2018. They will once again deliver more than half of the world’s collective airline profit. Middle East carriers, meanwhile, are expected to report a relatively miniscule $800 million net profit in 2019 versus $600 million in 2018. Yet they, too, will continue to offer the sort of airline service that raised the bar worldwide.

The Goliath that US major airlines have become should focus its profitability on customers, not on campaigns to knock out industry Davids like Air Italy and Norwegian.