ALPA: Flying the Extra Mile to Protect U.S. Airline Jobs

September 24, 2009 - Last week, ALPA’s president, Capt. John Prater, was scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee regarding competition concerns with international aviation alliances. Unfortunately, the hearing was postponed, eliminating the public platform ALPA planned to use for its launch of a campaign to ensure that U.S. airline workers are fairly treated in alliances between U.S. and foreign airlines. In particular, ALPA is seeking legislation that would guarantee that U.S. airlines do a reasonable share of the international flying conducted by the airlines that seek antitrust immunity for their revenue-sharing programs.

“The government should ensure a close correlation between the portion of revenue that a U.S. airline receives from an international airline alliance partnership revenue-sharing arrangement and the portion of flying the U.S. airline contributes to that arrangement,” said Prater. “If the Department of Transportation required our carriers to ‘play to get paid’ when reviewing these antitrust immunity requests, U.S. airline employees would get their fair share of the generated flying, too.”

ALPA pinpointed revenue sharing as the particular issue of concern, noting that in these arrangements, alliances often strive to achieve what they call “metal neutrality,” or an “indifference” to which alliance partners actually operate the aircraft so long as the alliance captures the customers’ business. That “indifference” also carries over into which airline employees fly a certain route, raising significant concerns over the potential of outsourcing jobs.

“U.S. airline employees are faced with the stark prospect of seeing their airlines become ‘travel agents’ for their foreign partners,” said Prater. “That means significant portions of the flying opportunities created by these alliances could fly right out the door. And it’s some of the most desirable work for pilots around—long-haul, large-aircraft, international flying.”

A case in point is the United and Aer Lingus joint venture, under which United Airlines decided that it will do none of the flying. “One thing is clear,” said Prater. “This union, with the strength and solidarity of our international counterparts and affiliated U.S. unions, will pursue the regulatory, legislative, and legal action needed to create the standard protections that airline workers on both sides of the Atlantic have earned and deserve.”

ALPA has already begun discussions with appropriate members of the House and Senate, as well as with the administration on how we are going to save these American jobs.

Stay tuned for more information on this matter.