The Time For Ex-Im Reform is Now

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ALPA continues its push for targeted and meaningful reforms to the Export-Import Bank’s widebody aircraft financing. With the Bank’s current authorization expiring on June 30, now is a key opportunity to ensure that its lending practices do not harm the U.S. airline industry and its workers.

ALPA pilots joined forces with airline workers from across the industry this week and visited the halls of Congress, informing their elected representatives about the importance of ensuring we have sound and fair policies that allow U.S. airlines and their employees the opportunity to compete on a level playing field.

I also sent a letter to Congress encouraging lawmakers to put an end to providing state-owned, state-supported, and credit-worthy airlines with advantageous financing that puts U.S. airlines at a significant competitive disadvantage.

The problem lies in the Bank’s practice of providing below-market financing for the purchase of widebody aircraft—U.S. airlines are not eligible for this program, only our foreign competitors are. This Bank support can result in a $20 million-per-airplane financing advantage for an airline. Once these airlines receive the Bank-financed aircraft, they can use them to compete directly with U.S. airlines on international routes, can flood the market with excess capacity, and can drastically undercut market-driven pricing.

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Norwegian’s Ex-Im Financing Request Comes Up Short for U.S. Airline Workers

10592690_10152173364360672_7648566619592751042_nIn ALPA’s latest effort to secure a fair marketplace for U.S. airlines and airline workers, our union called for the U.S. Export-Import Bank to reject Norwegian Air Shuttle’s application for aircraft financing. Why? Because the bank has not performed the economic assessment required by Congress to determine the effect its lending could have on U.S. airlines and their workers.

In a filing joined by Hawaiian Airlines and Delta Air Lines, ALPA underscored how the bank’s below-market lending rates save foreign airlines millions of dollars in financing costs when purchasing widebody airliners. These foreign airlines then use these U.S. taxpayer-subsidized aircraft to compete with U.S. airlines in the international marketplace.

Congress requires the bank to evaluate the financing requests it receives to identify potential harm to U.S. airlines and their workers. It appears that the bank has not performed this Congressionally-mandated analysis. Without it, we don’t know the extent of the adverse effect granting Norwegian’s financing request would have on U.S. industry and workers. As a result, the bank must reject Norwegian’s financing request. Don’t misunderstand—we welcome competition. But it has to be fair competition. The deck shouldn’t be stacked against domestic airlines.

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Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Safe Integration is Key

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or “drones” as many like to describe them, are increasingly in the news and in the hands of enthusiasts and commercial users alike. In fact, a quadcopter UAS recently made an unscheduled landing on the White House lawn.

While the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) recognizes the popularity of UAS and the value of remotely piloted aircraft for a variety of commercial applications, safety must be front and center.

It’s quite simple—we are for the safe integration of UAS into our national airspace system.

As a pilot, I need to be able to see a UAS on my cockpit display. Air traffic controllers need to see them too. And the UAS itself must be equipped with safety systems—to include active collision-avoidance technology—in order to operate in shared airspace with commercial aircraft. We are not there yet.

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Safety Is and Always Will Be Our Number One Priority

Securing the safety of our nation’s aviation system is our industry’s top priority. In order to maintain our standing as the safest air transport system in the world, we rely on a multilayer approach to security, using numerous strategies that all play important roles. One of those critical layers is the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program.

Since 2003, the FFDO program has been tremendously successful as a strong, ongoing deterrent against hijacking threats. FFDOs are cargo and passenger pilots who volunteer their personal time in order to receive the training required to become deputized FFDOs, and these pilot volunteers pay a portion of the expenses associated with the program. In total, thousands of ALPA pilots flying for cargo and passenger airlines have volunteered their time defending our airspace, securing nearly a million flight segments every year without any personal compensation.

The FFDO program is a proven and cost-effective component of transportation security in this country and has often been praised by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for the additional layer of protection it brings to air transportation.

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2015 Congress Must Ensure Fair Competition for U.S. Airlines

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It’s a new year and a new Congress. ALPA is making it clear to both new and incumbent lawmakers that we expect—and will accept nothing less than—fair competition in the global marketplace for our airlines.

In the face of business models such as Norwegian Air International (NAI), which seek to gain marketplace advantages by dodging national tax and employment laws and circumventing international air transport agreements, our U.S. government leaders must defend a free marketplace.

NAI has applied to the U.S. DOT for a foreign air carrier permit that would allow it to fly to and from the United States and compete directly with U.S. airlines on long-haul international routes. Its business scheme has the potential to affect each and every ALPA member. Mainline pilots’ jobs would be directly threatened by the out-of-balance competitive advantage that foreign competitors would receive under the business model. Moreover, the jobs of ALPA professionals who fly for regional airlines would also be in jeopardy if mainline carriers shrink or fail, as fee-for-departure flying feeds mainline airlines’ global networks.

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ALPA Strong in 2015

In 2015, the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l is strong. Our union’s democratic process ensures that we will remain strong.

As ALPA’s 10th president, I recognize that the challenges faced by our union and the North American airline industry are real. They include near-term and long-term threats to the airline piloting profession.

Along with ALPA’s new national officer team, I am eager and committed to leading our union as we take on issues such as:

  • Inadequate pay and benefits for pilots who fly for the regional airlines.
  • Airline managements who are not serious about negotiating timely contracts.
  • Continued threats from flag-of-convenience airline business models.
  • The proliferation of foreign airlines that are state-owned enterprises.
  • The lack of a national aviation policy in the United States and Canada.
  • Disparate flight- and duty-time rules for pilots who fly passengers and those who fly cargo in the United States and Canada.
  • The practice of hiring foreign airline crews and aircraft through Canada’s foreign worker program.
  • Continued security threats and stalled progress on enhancements like the installation of secondary barriers on airliner cockpits.

Unions are an essential part of a capitalist economy. As ALPA advances its new, more effective brand of unionism, we will pursue new strategies to engage with all stakeholders. Our union will continue to be a leader in the labor movement in North America and in the airline industry across the globe.

While we face determined foes, ALPA’s new national officers, along with every member of our union, will together advance the airline piloting profession, improve the careers of ALPA members, pave the way to a level economic playing field for U.S. and Canadian airlines and their employees, and enhance the safety and security of air transportation across the globe.

Watch: Why DOT Must Deny NAI

You can’t miss ALPA’s latest whiteboard video, featuring the CEO of Norwegian Air International’s scheme to decimate the U.S. and European airline industry with a flag-of-convenience business model. Learn why the U.S. Department of Transportation must deny NAI’s foreign air carrier permit application.

Watch the video and join the effort to #DenyNAI at sos.alpa.org.