The Law of the Land Affects our Skies

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The important issues facing airline pilots and the North American airline industry require real, lasting solutions. Airline pilots, airlines, airports, aircraft manufacturers, small communities, general aviators, and many others live by the decisions of a nation’s lawmakers and regulators. Aviation policies and laws also affect passengers and air cargo shippers in small towns and major metropolises.

For this reason, ALPA persists in advancing our pilot-partisan agenda and is constantly present in the halls of Congress and Parliament to make certain pilots’ perspectives are considered. On many issues, ALPA is the only voice lawmakers hear that is solely focused on ensuring the safe operation of our aviation industry and system. As the professionals who are ultimately responsible for operating airplanes and safely delivering passengers and cargo, airline pilots have a unique, and the most credible, point of view on issues affecting the safety of their operations.

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Strengthening our profession globally

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In today’s highly competitive aviation marketplace, globalization continues to be a driving force. And as pilots, we are on the frontlines of connecting the world. With such vast expansion comes a unique set of challenges for our profession. For this reason, hundreds of pilots from across the globe convened last week for the 5th annual Global Pilots’ Symposium (GPS) to discuss our common challenges and to develop and commit to executing a plan of action.

The GPS is a joint initiative of the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA), the Associations of Star Alliance Pilots (ASAP), the Oneworld Cockpit Crew Coalition (OCCC), and the SkyTeam Pilots Association. ALPA was instrumental in creating this annual event, which is held in conjunction with the IFALPA conference, in order to enhance our status and collective bargaining efforts at the international level.

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Providing Assistance Beyond the Cockpit

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On March 24, the world heard about the tragic, fatal crash of Germanwings Flight 4U 9525. Our thoughts and profound sympathies are with all the families and friends of the victims as we all struggle to come to terms with this terrible loss.

As the largest nongovernmental safety organization in the world, we felt an enormous responsibility to offer support and assistance to those affected by the Germanwings accident. Upon hearing of the crash, ALPA immediately contacted the German Cockpit Association (Vereinigung Cockpit) and did just that. In addition, we continue to coordinate and communicate with various government authorities to stay informed and offer our expertise as appropriate.

As if the overwhelming feeling of grief for the passengers and crew has not been heartbreaking enough, unrelenting and tremendously disturbing media reports have led to rampant speculation. It is important to recognize that the conjecture by some in the media has been based on reports that, to date, come from sources other than the formal safety investigation. The information is certainly not complete and may unfortunately lead to premature or false conclusions, which we all know is harmful to a full and accurate investigation.

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Safety Is ALPA’s Payload

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By Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA’s First Vice President and National Safety Coordinator

As ALPA’s first national officer who comes from an all-cargo carrier, I know from experience the unique challenges faced by pilots who fly freight. As the union’s first vice president and national safety coordinator, I also witness the common commitment to safety, pilot assistance, and security all ALPA pilots share, regardless of what they carry on their aircraft.

Air freight has been part of the North American airline industry since its beginnings. The first cargo flight occurred on November 7, 1910. It took 61 minutes to fly the 70-mile route that traced the railway line between Dayton and Columbus. This cargo flight moved merchandise, but it also gave a leg-up to local business, attracting a crowd of 3,000 people when it landed in Columbus and drawing public attention to a sale at the city’s largest store. Even with its inaugural flight, air freight proved a powerful economic driver.

Like the first passenger operations, all-cargo flying in the early airline industry was fraught with hazard. Ever since I became an ALPA member, I have recognized and respected ALPA’s history of safety advocacy that spans more than 80 years. Our union’s work has been integral to achieving the extraordinary level of safety that is the hallmark of our industry today.

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A Deal is a Deal

Aviation stakeholders from across the industry met this week in Washington for U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 14th Annual Aviation Summit. While attendees engaged in robust discussion regarding aviation’s role in the global economy, the CEOs of two Middle Eastern carriers, Etihad Airways and Emirates Airline, were also in D.C., reportedly conducting their own discussions with industry representatives. One of those CEO’s, James Hogan of Etihad, also spoke at the Summit.

Etihad Airways and Emirates Airline, in addition to Qatar Airways, spare no expense—thanks to the financial backing of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates—in trying to convince U.S. officials that their massive subsidies do not distort the international market. But as these state-supported foreign airlines try to convince our government that Open Skies is a win-win-win, I believe their lack of transparency speaks louder than their efforts to explain how their highly subsidized carriers are not in violation of current air transport services agreements – and in effect, results in a lose-lose-lose for the U.S aviation industry.

No one should be fooled by their rhetoric. ALPA recognizes the dangerous reality—the negative domino effect that comes along with hugely state-supported airlines that are growing rapidly and operate without the need to show a profit.

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ALPA Helps Expose Gulf Airlines’ Massive Subsidies

Fair Skies Blog

The most compelling and credible evidence yet emerged this week regarding the massive, unprecedented, and sustained subsidies that Qatar and the United Arab Emirates provide to their airlines and the tremendous economic disadvantage they create for North American airlines and their workers as they compete in the global marketplace.

ALPA served as a major voice of airline workers as the Partnership for Open and Fair Skies coalition members joined together to release a 55-page whitepaper titled Restoring Open Skies: the Need to Address Subsidized Competition from State-Owned Airlines in Qatar and the UAE. The findings dramatically illustrate how unfair economic advantages such as interest-free “loans” with no repayment obligation, government assumption of fuel-hedging losses, subsidized airport charges, free land, and more have allowed Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, and Emirates to rapidly expand their fleets and international routes. Directly contradicting the premise of the U.S. Government’s Open Skies policy––that all airlines will compete fairly, without government interference––these government-provided subsidies distort the commercial marketplace to the severe detriment of U.S. employment, the U.S. economy, and U.S. airline jobs.

Our coalition partners, which include American, Delta, and United; flight attendants; and other airline pilot unions called upon the Obama Administration to consult with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, as the existing air transport agreements allow, to address the flow of subsidized air service to the United States, and to request a freeze on current passenger service for these countries while consultations are underway.

These countries and airlines should no longer illegitimately benefit at the expense of North American workers. This new white paper underscores the urgent importance of ALPA’s work to restore fair competition in the marketplace for North American airlines and their employees.

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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