Emirates Airlines announced this week the launch of daily non-stop service between Dubai and Orlando. This makes O-Town the carrier’s 10th destination in the United States. According to the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, the service will bring an estimated $100 million in extra economic activity to the region. The service is also likely to compound the deep sense of frustration U.S. carriers feel as they watch the likes of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways penetrate the American market from nearly 12,000 kilometers away.

This frustration is not without merit. Since 2008, Gulf carrier shares of bookings between the U.S. and India have jumped by 28 percent. In contrast, U.S. carrier shares have fallen by five percent. With little sign of relief in sight, the Obama administration is being vigorously lobbied to revisit the Open Skies Treaty, which allows U.S. and Gulf carriers to operate in each other’s countries without restrictions on capacity and pricing. U.S. airline executives contend that Gulf carriers are violating the treaty’s ‘fair competition’ clause by accepting massive government subsidies. These subsidies allow the likes of Emirates and Etihad to undercut the competition with lower fares, taking away business that would otherwise go to U.S. airlines.

The subsidy claim personifies a deeply held belief that all passengers want are cheap tickets. But as author and consumer advocate Christopher Elliot points out, U.S. airlines have for years leveraged this belief to justify cutting customer service without asking a simple question: What else do passengers want? Studies do suggest that price heavily influences consumer choice. However, they also suggest that passengers are increasingly gravitating towards airlines that, in addition to offering competitive prices, also provide high quality products and services. The names of some of these airlines should come as no surprise.

Since 2008, passengers have consistently chosen Etihad Airways, Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airways as top ten airlines to fly according to the Skytrax world airline survey. The survey, completed annually, is unique in that it examines the totality of the traveling experience, scrutinizing everything from ease of check-in services, efficiency of boarding procedures and carry-on luggage policy, to crew friendliness, meal quality, and service consistency. In total, more than 40 different aspects of an airline’s products and services are evaluated. Skytrax accepts no outside sponsorship or payment for conducting the survey and solicits passenger opinions of the largest international airlines and the smaller domestic carriers. Absent from the list of top performers every year are U.S. carriers, who usually rank amongst the bottom 50.

The key to Gulf carrier success is their unwavering commitment to improving the quality of the travel experience. The premium products of these carriers, such as suites and showers, are well known. But for the vast majority of passengers who fly coach, the ‘value proposition’ as Emirates boss Tim Clark calls it, is equally strong. Etihad has its flying nannies that preoccupy restless children, Emirates delivers over 1200 channels of premium entertainment on its long-haul flights, and Qatar Airways offers an award-winning wine collection to passengers tired of drinking cheap merlot.

When compared to U.S. carriers who rely on decrepit airplanes and crabby flight attendants to charge more while providing less, the choice is an easy one to make.