Airbus has warned the row triggered by US airline claims that the major Gulf carriers benefit from government subsidies risks damaging the whole aviation industry.

The Sunday Times reported Airbus chief executive Tom Enders met European commissioners in Brussels earlier this month to lobby against the EC bowing to any demands to rein in open skies agreements.

An Airbus spokesman said: “Negotiations between European member states or the European Commission and other countries or regions should target sustainable development of air transport.

“This will allow both parties to benefit from this growth.”

American Airlines, United and Delta Air Lines published a report in March alleging the Gulf carriers received more than $40 billion in market-distorting hand-outs in the last 10 years.

The US government began an investigation in April. Delta is an alliance partner of Air France-KLM and part owner of Virgin Atlantic, with whom it has a joint-venture partnership.

United is a Star Alliance partner of Lufthansa, which has itself made past claims that the Gulf carriers benefit from subsidies.

American Airlines is a joint-venture partner of British Airways and its parent International Airlines Group (IAG) and also a partner of Qatar in the One World alliance.

IAG quit the Association of European Airlines (AEA) in April amid disagreement with Lufthansa and Air France-KLM over the allegations.

The row centres on the US airlines’ wish to stop an extension of the Gulf carriers’ rights to fly to the US. The Gulf carriers insist they are not subsidised.