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The US government is being urged to ‘keep the skies open’ by Gulf carrier Etihad Airways.

The call comes as part of a formal response to efforts by Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines to block competition and roll back the benefits of open skies policies.

Etihad Airways refutes claims made by the three US carriers about the UAE-based airline’s finances.

The airline claims it has provided a “clear and compelling explanation” that the equity funding and shareholder loans provided by the Abu Dhabi government fully comply with the US-UAE air services agreement and all other applicable rules.

The submission claims that the three rival carriers have gained more than $70 billion in benefits from US government authorities, and through legal processes such as Chapter 11 bankruptcy re-organisation, over the last 15 years.

The response has been submitted to the US Department of State, the US Department of Transportation and the US Department of Commerce.

The submission includes detailed information about the airline, its financial strategy and its business performance.

It discloses that the government of Abu Dhabi has invested $14.3 billion in Etihad Airways since being established in 2003. Of this amount, $9.1 billion was provided in equity funding and a further $5.2 billion was provided in shareholder loans.

The carrier says it does not receive subsidies or sovereign guarantees. And, contrary to the claims of some competitors, it does not receive free or discounted fuel or airport services in Abu Dhabi.

Etihad Airways has raised more than $11 billion in long-term funding through the global financial markets since 2003, including $3.7 billion debt funding raised in 2014.? About $5 billion of the airline’s borrowings have been repaid since 2003, including $800 million in 2014.

President and CEO, James Hogan, said: “Etihad Airways did not seek this fight; we focus on making money by providing world class, innovative, re-imagined and value-for-money product and services to our guests.”

He added: “Our story is one of an airline that has chosen to challenge the global status quo, bringing new competition to markets that have for too long been dominated by the major legacy airlines.

“In many markets, airlines react to our new competition by improving their own offer to consumers.

“It is ironic that in the home of free competition, a market in which we account for only a tiny fraction of one per cent of international departures, we have instead been at