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U.S. Airline workers need fair skies, not just open skies

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U.S. airlines and their workers need the U.S. government to make certain its international aviation policies such as Open Skies agreements ensure fair competition in an economic arena in which foreign airlines may benefit from powerful state support or attempt to violate the intent of international policy to gain an unfair competitive advantage over U.S. businesses.

“It’s clear that U.S. airline industry workers have benefited from the expanded access to new markets made possible by U.S. Open Skies agreements,” said Capt. Lee Moak, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA). “While ALPA strongly supports the goal of expanding U.S. airlines’ entry into new markets, U.S. international aviation policy must evolve with the change that’s taking place in the global economy.”

ALPA, which represents nearly 50,000 airline pilots including the more than 4,300 flightcrew members at FedEx Express, has long championed efforts to expand entry for U.S. airlines into international aviation markets if airlines compete on commercial merit. In today’s global economy, however, the playing field is often tilted in U.S. airlines’ foreign competitors’ favor. For example, many foreign airlines are state-owned and benefit from advantageous home government policy, while others seek to carry out “flag of convenience” business plans to gain an unfair economic advantage over U.S. airlines.

“While ALPA is not calling on the U.S. government to roll back its Open Skies agreements––many of which contain special rights for cargo carriers––we are asking U.S. leaders to reexamine these policies in the context of this new global economic paradigm,” continued Moak. “Free markets only work when they are fair markets, and even free markets need rules and consequences for those who don’t abide by them.”

In 2010, ALPA played a central role in creating a stand­-alone labor article in the U.S.-EU agreement that highlights the value of high labor standards. The labor article is critical because, unlike the United States, which has one set of labor laws that apply to all U.S.-certificated airlines, the EU’s 28 member states have 28 individual sets of national labor laws.

“U.S. airlines can continue to benefit from Open Skies agreements while the U.S. government advances a strong U.S. airline industry and jobs for its workers,” continued Moak. “The United States needs ‘Open Skies 2.0’ to create fair skies and make certain that existing and future international aviation agreements achieve a level, competitive playing field for U.S. airlines and their employees. U.S. airline workers want to compete and prevail in the international marketplace, but we won’t succeed until the United States uses its own policies to ensure a fair competition.”

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