Uncertainty still surrounds the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 as we go
to press. ALPA has offered any assistance we can contribute through our
membership in the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations. The
investigation is ongoing. For that reason, our union has selectively granted
news media interviews in the context of the event, but we have restricted our
outreach to clear opportunities to advance ALPA’s long-standing safety
priorities and to comment free of speculation.
While ALPA has been dedicated for more than eight decades to advancing the
highest standards of safety and security, it is also our union’s
responsibility to ensure that the U.S. airline industry is economically strong
and competitive. Equally important, we also work to make certain the pilots we
represent garner the strongest possible contracts to advance their careers and
In a recent address before the International Aviation Club of Washington,
D.C., I underscored how the United States must adapt its current international
aviation policy to meet new challenges in the global economic arena.
In the Norwegian Air International (NAI) scheme, it is easy to find
compelling evidence of the urgent need for the United States to adapt its air
services agreements to give U.S. airlines and their employees a fair competitive
fight. Even though its operations are centered in Norway and its parent company
is Norwegian Air Shuttle, NAI just received an air operator’s certificate (AOC)
from Ireland, despite the fact that it does not plan to operate flights to or
from that country.
Understandably, the opposition is rapidly escalating to Norwegian Air
Shuttle’s attempt to use NAI to avoid Norwegian laws and exploit the U.S.-EU
Open Skies Agreement to perform long-haul international flying with an unfair
economic advantage over its U.S. competitors.
In a recent letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, a remarkably
large bipartisan group of 38 U.S. senators raised serious concerns about NAI’s
application to the U.S. Department of Transportation for a foreign air carrier
permit that would allow it to fly to the United States. In addition to the
Senate letter, which was led by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Sen. Roy Blunt
(R-Mo.), and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), more than 60 members of the U.S.
House of Representatives have also written to the DOT expressing concern or
As Lufthansa chief executive Christoph Franz reportedly told one of Norway’s
largest business newspapers on March 17, “We respect Norwegian highly and gladly
compete against them on long-haul routes, but that must take place on the same
With objections mounting in all corners, NAI now appears to have flip-flopped
on its public message. In a March 12 story published in The Wall Street
Journal, the CEO of NAI’s parent company said that he is making plans to buy
another European carrier with an existing permit to serve the United States
should NAI fail to obtain a permit from the DOT.
In contrast, those who oppose the NAI scheme have done so in no uncertain
terms. ALPA has delivered its message of objection to the DOT directly and
through international news media outlets ranging from stories carried by the
Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation and The New York Times to a letter to
the editor published in The Wall Street Journal. In addition, nearly
30,000 pilots, other industry workers, and concerned members of the public have
joined ALPA’s petition and called on the DOT to deny NAI’s application.
For myriad reasons, not least that it mirrors the “flag of convenience”
business model that cost tens of thousands of U.S. maritime jobs, ALPA has
called for DOT to reject NAI’s scheme.
As always, our union is focused on ensuring that the U.S. airline industry is
competitive and can support and create U.S. jobs, but we are equally determined
to build stable careers for airline pilots through strong contracts. In our
union’s collective bargaining, we recognize that no silver bullets exist for
challenges in the fee-for-departure or any other sector of the industry. Acting
to advance individual pilot group contracts requires formidable resources,
thorough expertise, and tough decisions.
As ALPA does for all the pilot groups our union represents, we provide a
comprehensive array of resources to assist our pilot group leaders in taking on
issues ranging from longevity and pay rates to flow and career progression. In
the end, it comes down to each pilot group leader’s finding common terms, making
a decision, and moving forward.
While the terms of contracts and global competitors’ schemes are ever
changing, your union will always provide its unrivaled expertise and essential
resources on the same terms: membership.
Air Line Pilot, April 2014