Is overseas competition hurting U.S. airlines?

The barbs continue to fly over the nation's "Open Skies" policy, intended to remove government interference in the decisions airlines make about their routes, capacity and pricing.

In Washington on Friday, the CEOs of the three largest U.S. carriers stepped up their attack against Middle Eastern competitors that they say get unfair government subsidizes, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. airlines want the Obama administration to push those nations to end subsidies for Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways. The Middle Eastern carriers deny being subsidized. They counter that U.S. airlines have gotten billions in help from Washington over the years.

This month, more than 250 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, calling on the Obama administration to investigate the governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The lawmakers said the two Gulf nations have directed over $40 billion in "concealed subsides and other unfair benefits" to the state-owned Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates Airlines.

Etihad Airways, the UAE's national airline, countered on Friday with its own report, which concluded that United Airlines (UAL), Delta (DAL) and American Airlines (AAL) collectively received more than $70 billion in U.S. government benefits since 2000, enabling them to "transition from the verge of bankruptcy."

"We do not question the legitimacy of benefits provided to U.S. carriers by the U.S. government and the bankruptcy courts," Jim Callaghan, Etihad Airways's general counsel and company secretary, said in a press statement. "We simply wish to highlight the fact that U.S. carriers have been benefiting and continue to benefit from a highly favorable legal regime."

The Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, a coalition made up of U.S. carriers, their unions and other industry groups, released its own study that contends the state-owned Gulf carriers are costing American jobs by diverting passengers from U.S.-based carriers.

The Obama administration says it will review the U.S. airlines' claims, while groups like the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) accuse the carriers of hypocrisy.

"The Big Three U.S. airlines have constructed themselves an enormous glass house, and their amnesia about their own subsidies has now cost them the credibility of their own core argument," USTA executive vice president for public affairs Jonathan Grella said last month.