U.S./EU Talks Continue

Air Line Pilot, January 2004, p.34

Capt. Dennis Dolan, who is both ALPA’s first vice-president and president of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations, outlined for ALPA’s Executive Board in October 2003 highlights of aviation issues facing airline pilots on a global scale.

One of the benefits of ALPA’s membership in an organization like IFALPA is that ALPA can participate in developing strategic planning on issues such as mergers that affect its members.
Capt. Dennis Dolan

Capt. Dolan said he was pleased to report that discussions about harmonizing pilot certificates between the United States and the European Union are not moving forward. This issue is important to pilots in the United States, because it could open the door for cabotage and other adverse regulations and policies. "The regulatory responsibilities of the Joint Aviation Authorities, the government body that promulgates flight rules in Europe, are being transferred to a new agency, the European Aviation Safety Authority," he said, considerably slowing down projects on setting policies, such as those on harmonizing pilot certificates.

A more important issue on the international front is the ongoing air transport service agreement negotiations between the United States and the European Union. Two sessions occurred, in October and December 2003.

Government representatives staked out their positions during the first session. For example: The EU proposed to change designation rights—determining who can fly to the United States from what countries. The U.S. negotiators argued that the issue is complex and needs more study. They cautioned the EU to move slowly on this issue.

Airline ownership and control is also a controversial issue. The EU claims that the current U.S. rules are "nonsense"—that’s their word. The United States responded by submitting a number of questions to the EU about the implications of their ownership proposal. U.S. law restricts foreign ownership to a maximum of 25 percent of U.S. airlines, and our negotiators raised national security concerns if the percentages change.

And most important to ALPA, the United States raised the issue of labor stakeholders, who need to be considered in connection with any proposal to change ownership rules. This requirement flows from the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Worldwide Air Transport Conference held in Montreal in March 2003. ALPA recognized well before the Conference that discussions there could greatly affect airline pilots. As part of the IFALPA delegation, ALPA provided extensive background information for the U.S. representatives, worked hard to get constructive labor language included in the ICAO document, and convinced the U.S. delegation to support that language.

The EU is clearly pushing the exchange of cabotage rights—a mandate from their Member States. U.S. representatives were equally clear in saying no. "This U.S. position is very good news," Capt. Dolan reported.

Flight-time, duty-time, and rest requirements are big issues for European pilots right now. Various proposals have been argued back and forth, but none have passed. This issue is caught up in the EU bureaucratic process, but is very much alive. The European Cockpit Association will have to lead the charge on this issue and have hired a professional lobbying group to help.

If the proposal that the EU has on the table passes with the current proposed 13-hour duty day (without regard for time at the controls), all of the international flights from the middle of North America east to Europe could be flown with two pilots instead of three. That could cost thousands of U.S. and Canadian pilots their jobs.

Airline consolidation has begun in Europe as Air France and KLM have agreed to a "combination" and will merge over the next 5 to 8 years. Alitalia may be added to that "mix." U.S. and Canadian airlines will have to compete with this type of multinational mega-airline if the Europeans get a transatlantic common aviation area implemented, as they are proposing in the U.S./EU traffic rights negotiations.

IFALPA representatives, including U.S. and Canadian delegates, attended an Industrial Committee meeting in Mexico in October 2003. ALPA had the opportunity at this meeting to explain how mergers such as the proposed Air France/KLM merger work—and don’t work. "One of the benefits of ALPA’s membership in an organization like IFALPA is that ALPA can participate in developing strategic planning on issues such as mergers that affect ALPA members," Capt. Dolan said.

Invited by the Chinese government, IFALPA conducted an accident analysis seminar and committee meeting in Beijing, also in October. The Chinese government has an interest in bringing into IFALPA its roughly 10,000 airline pilots, a number that could easily double in the next 10 years. The Chinese government is providing more freedom for its people, which it knows it has to do to participate effectively in the international aviation market.

"Keeping a close watch on all of these issues is vitally important to the future of U.S. airline pilots," Capt. Dolan concluded. "These are fights we cannot afford to lose."