“Open Skies” Far From Open and Shut

As ALPA’s delegation returns from Brussels, the association remains guarded about the tentative air services agreement reached Friday between the United States and the European Union. ALPA has concerns over several provisions of the tentative agreement that deal with ownership and control of U.S. airlines and how the U.S. government would implement the agreement.

The tentative agreement does have the potential to create some new growth opportunities for U.S. airlines and their workers. For example, it proposes to lift the restrictions on the number of U.S. carriers that can fly to London Heathrow. However, the agreement does nothing to provide additional landing slots for incumbent U.S. carriers or new slots for new carriers at that access-restricted airport.

How the agreement’s provisions on foreign ownership of U.S. airlines and franchising arrangements are applied in practice will be critical. “If this agreement goes into effect, ALPA will meticulously scrutinize how the Department of Transportation implements these new rules,” said ALPA president, Capt. John Prater. “If the DOT attempts to allow foreign control over the operations of U.S. airlines, we will fight that effort with all necessary resources. Any such effort would be completely at odds with the statutory prohibition on foreign control and the intent of Congress that the prohibition be strictly enforced.”

“Last December, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters committed to involve all interested parties, including Congress and labor, in any move to allow foreign interests greater control over U.S. airlines,” continued Prater. “We hope that DOT would not see a U.S./EU agreement as an opportunity to circumvent the foreign control prohibitions. Total opposition to any unilateral action by the Administration, contrary to clear Congressional intent, remains ALPA policy.”

As in previous rounds, ALPA has had an observer present during all negotiations since the start of the latest talks in Brussels. ALPA will continue to play a pivotal role in representing its members and employing all union resources to ensure that the jobs, safety, and security of the U.S. airline industry are not compromised. ALPA is studying the lengthy agreement in detail and will provide more information in the near future.