American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz are among those scheduled to address the US Chamber of Commerce’s annual aviation summit in Washington DC on March 7.

At three previous summits, they have complained about alleged unfair competition from state-owned foreign carriers. So, it’s a safe bet they will do the same again this week, calling for the Trump administration to level the competitive playing field.

However, don’t expect them to complain about the heavily subsidized Chinese airlines that forced American to abandon Chicago-Beijing and Chicago-Shanghai last year because of subsidy-aided cutthroat pricing. And what about the massive government bailouts Air India and South African Airways—both United’s Star Alliance partners—receive? Expect crickets.

Or how about Turkish Airlines, another Star member, that is touting the opening this month of its new state-built Istanbul Airport with an initial annual capacity of 90 million passengers, eventually expanding to 200 million? You won’t hear a peep about that, either.

American, United and Delta Air Lines selectively and repeatedly save their complaints for the state-owned Gulf carriers Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways. Why are they not asking the Trump administration to conduct a comprehensive review of the competitive ramifications of all state-owned carriers?

When asked to explain their silence on subsidized Chinese carriers, which are rapidly growing their share of the transpacific market, American, Delta and United give the lame explanation that the US does not have an Open Skies agreement with China. However, if the presence or absence of such an agreement is their determining factor, why have they failed to allege that the $9 billion in state aid Air India has received since 2013 violates the US-India Open Skies agreement?

One potential explanation for their silence on Chinese carrier subsidies is that American and Delta have each invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Chinese airlines. In 2015, Delta invested $450 million for a 3.55% stake in China Eastern Airlines. Then, in 2017, Delta joined forces with China Eastern to jointly purchase 10% positions in Air France-KLM. In 2017, American also invested $200 million in China Southern Airlines for an almost 3% stake in Asia’s largest carrier by fleet size. In addition to these investments, American, Delta and United each has a considerable and growing commercial relationship with a Chinese airline.

However, there is a more broadly applicable common denominator, and it applies to select state-owned and privately held competitor carriers alike. American, Delta and United are fixated on protecting the US-Europe market. Along with their alliance and joint venture partners, they control nearly 90% of that market. Government-granted antitrust immunity allows the US majors and their foreign partners to fix prices, constrain capacity to profit-maximizing levels and coordinate schedules. The result is record transatlantic profits quarter over quarter. And the US majors are determined to protect their dominance in that lucrative market.

Norwegian Air International and its UK airline, Norwegian Air UK, Air Italy (in which Qatar Airways has a minority stake), and Emirates, which legally operates fifth freedom flights between Dubai to New York JFK and Newark via Milan and Athens, provide much needed competitive choice in the US-Europe market. American, Delta and United have led and funded multi-million dollar campaigns to kill these airlines and rid themselves of new competition.

The Chinese carriers, Air India and South African Airways, meanwhile, have no impact on the US-Europe market, so they get a pass.

 For all their rhetoric about state-owned carriers, the need for a level playing field and unfair competition, do not be fooled by the true mission of American, Delta and United: protecting the US-Europe golden goose market.

However, their overwhelming dominance of that market means it’s even more important that more, not less, competition is permitted and preserved.

Kevin Mitchell is chairman and founder of the US-based Business Travel Coalition. 

Mitchell@businesstravelcoalition.com