Global Realities Require Local Action
March 28, 2014 - Hundreds of pilots from around the world convened this week at the 4th annual Global Pilots Symposium not just to discuss the common challenges of all airline pilots, but also to develop a plan of action and commit to execution.
Their urgent, collective resolve was underscored by keynote speaker Capt. Don Marcus, international president of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots (MM&P), who retold the harrowing tale of the decimation of the U.S. maritime industry due to the flag of convenience system. During his presentation, “The Impact of Open International Competition on U.S. Maritime Labor,” Marcus relayed staggering statistics as a harbinger of what could happen to the global airline system.
Of a world fleet totaling more than 50,000 ships, the United States, as one of the world’s largest trading partners, has only a fraction of the fleet, he said.
“The flag of convenience system of open registers and global competition has had a devastating effect on U.S. national flag shipping companies and U.S. maritime labor,” Marcus said. “Today, the total number of ships in U.S. international trade is 7,863. Of that number, the U.S. has only 89 registered ships in international trade.”
Additionally, of the 50,000 merchant ships in the world feet, approximately 71 percent—35,000 ships—are under the FOC system, meaning they avoid the obligations normally associated with national regulation by a flag state such as national taxes and national laws that protect labor and social conditions. As such, 86 percent of merchant ships operating under the FOC system are successful in avoiding collective bargaining agreements along with avoiding taxes and regulation—giving them an unfair advantage in the shipping industry.
“The lessons we have learned from the maritime experience would seem to indicate that air transport companies, if given the opportunity, would shift their various operating functions, such as maintenance, flight operations, crewing, aircraft registry, etc., to the countries within the Unites States and EU with the least tax consequences, least regulatory oversight, and lowest wage costs,” Marcus warned.
Marcus’ presentation was a polarizing topic, which colored the day’s discussion that deliberately focused on the challenges and action required to overcome them. Moderated by Capt. Ron Abel (United), Capt. Tony Chapman (American), and Capt. Mike Pinho (Delta), the conversation focused on the strategic planning as a way to develop new approaches for the future. Three interactive panel discussions headlined the day:
• “Connecting the World’s Pilots”
o Panelists: Capt. Martin Duffy, Capt. Jim Phillips, and Michael Robbins
o Moderator: Capt. Henk de Vries
• “Airline Models: Past, Present & Future”
o Panelists: David Krieger, Capt. Tim Robinson, Capt. Gustaf Strengell, and Capt. Rune Sundland
o Moderator: Capt. Roger White
• “Turning Strategy into Action”
o Panelists: Capt. Lee Moak and Capt. Evert van Zwol
o Moderator: Capt. Don Wykoff
Dominating topics of discussion were, not surprisingly, the Norwegian Air International FOC scheme as it undercuts global competition, as well as the continuous challenges faced by Ryan International pilots and their need to organize and the continued growth of state-owned enterprises from the Gulf.
The Global Pilots’ Symposium is a joint initiative of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots Association (IFALPA), and the Association of Star Alliance Pilots (ASAP), the Oneworld Cockpit Crew Coalition (OCCC), and the SkyTeam Pilots Association (SPA).
On the heels of GPS, IFALPA kicked off its 69th annual conference, where more than 200 delegates continued the productive dialogue to develop solutions to tackle the worldwide challenges—despite geographical boundaries—that confront them all.
During the 2014 IFALPA conference, the following ALPA pilots were elected to IFALPA positions:
Capt. Chris Lynch (United), executive vice president, North America; Capt. Peter Black (First Air), regional vice president, Canada/Artic; F/O Boyd Kelly (Delta), regional vice president, U.S./Central Pacific; Capt. Robert Torn (Delta), Air Traffic Services chairman; F/O Mark Rogers (United), Dangerous Goods chairman; and Capt. Ron Abel (United), Industrial chairman.
Look for more coverage of the Global Pilots’ Symposium and the 69th annual IFALPA conference, including pilots honored for superior airmanship as well as pilots honored for efforts in the international arena, in the May edition of Air Line Pilot.