March 10, 2014
ALPA: U.S. Open Skies Agreements Must Advance
Union’s President Addresses International Aviation Club of Washington, D.C.
WASHINGTON––Capt. Lee Moak, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), today called on U.S. government leaders to take new action to ensure that existing and future U.S. Open Skies agreements and other U.S. policies give U.S. airline industry workers a fair opportunity to compete in the global marketplace. The call came in an address before the International Aviation Club of Washington, D.C.
“Every ALPA pilot shares my concern today regarding Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Through the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations, ALPA has offered any and all assistance we can provide to the crew’s colleagues and to the investigation,” said Capt. Moak in opening his address. “At the same time that ALPA works to advance the highest standards of safety, it is our responsibility to ensure that the U.S. airline industry is economically strong and competitive.”
“Many of the countries with which the United States has created or is looking to create Open Skies agreements either own or heavily back their airlines. This is not fair skies,” said Capt. Moak. “U.S. aviation policy must foster a robust U.S. airline industry and jobs while allowing airlines to continue to benefit from Open Skies agreements.”
ALPA’s president explained that this can be accomplished, “but only if the United States creates agreements on a go-forward basis that contain provisions that advance the value of high labor standards.” He added that the United States must also identify unfair state-created competitive advantages and account for them in these agreements, both in the future and looking at Open Skies agreements already in place.
Speaking before D.C. policymakers, Congressional staff, airline management, and members of the news media, ALPA’s president underscored the importance of ensuring U.S. air services agreements create fair economic competition by citing the recent Norwegian Air International (NAI) business scheme.
An attempt by Norwegian Air Shuttle to avoid its national laws by having an Irish subsidiary conduct its long-haul flying, NAI is designed to allow the company to reduce labor standards for its employees and gain an unfair economic advantage over European and U.S. airlines in attracting international passengers flying to and from the United States.
“Norwegian Air Shuttle is not contesting that it has created NAI for the purpose of avoiding Norwegian law,” said Capt. Moak. “NAI is designed to undermine the labor standards and principles contained in the laws of Norway and the United States, and its operation in the transatlantic market would be inconsistent with the intent of the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement.”
In an international economic environment in which a scheme such as NAI exists and in which many foreign airlines are state-owned or heavily state supported, U.S. Open Skies agreements must safeguard U.S. airlines’ ability to compete fairly in the international economic arena as well as the jobs of U.S. airline industry workers.
“Many foreign countries own their airlines outright and equip them to compete with clear-cut economic advantages,” said Capt. Moak. “In these countries, the degree of their national airline’s success is vital to their nations’ future economic diversity and well-being. We can’t change this and we shouldn’t try.”
In addition, ALPA’s president called for reforming other current U.S. policies that economically harm U.S. airlines’ ability to compete internationally. He cited the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s widebody aircraft financing that hands significant financing cost savings to U.S. airlines’ foreign competitors but for which U.S. airlines are not eligible to apply.
Capt. Moak also reinforced ALPA’s call for the U.S. government to stop funding the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) preclearance facility currently operating at Abu Dhabi International Airport and to reject any other preclearance facility that would give state-owned foreign airlines an unfair marketplace advantage in competing with U.S. airlines while draining resources from CBP facilities at U.S. airports.
“Ultimately, this is about saving the U.S. airlines and all that they contribute to the U.S. economy, national security, and jobs,” Capt. Moak concluded. “If the U.S. government does not allow U.S. airlines and their workers to compete fairly, the U.S. airline industry as we know it today will disappear.”
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing nearly 50,000 pilots at 31 airlines in the United States and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at www.alpa.org or follow us on Twitter @WeAreALPA.
CONTACT: ALPA Media, 703/481-4440 or Media@alpa.org
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