ALPA: Rural air service relies on US airlines’ ability to compete globally

Dino D'Amore
By Dino D'Amore May 1, 2014 13:26

ALPA: Rural air service relies on US airlines’ ability to compete globally

Capt. Lee Moak, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) underscored in testimony before the US House Aviation Subcommittee the serious economic threat to US airlines posed by state-supported foreign airlines and foreign airlines’ business plans that conflict with US policy. He reinforced ALPA’s call for the U.S. government to make certain US airlines have an opportunity to compete and prevail internationally.

“The economic threat to US airlines is very real,” said Capt. Moak at the hearing, which was titled “Air Service to Small and Rural Communities” and included discussion of the Essential Air Service (EAS) program through which the US government pays participating airlines to serve small and rural communities. ALPA maintains that, if US airlines are not able to compete economically, there may be little need to discuss small and rural air service in this country. “The most serious challenge faced by this sector is one that threatens the entire U.S. airline industry,” he charged.

During the hearing, Capt. Moak also made clear ALPA’s position that there is not a shortage of qualified pilots in this country. “There is, however, a pay and benefits shortage for qualified pilots,” he said.

Explaining that the average beginning pay at a US regional airline is about $24,000, Capt. Moak detailed ALPA’s involvement on aviation university campuses and stated that some new pilots are turning to other careers because they cannot earn a living flying for a regional airline. He also noted that thousands of experienced U.S. airline pilots are currently flying for foreign airlines when they would rather live and work in the United States, were they offered competitive market-based pay and benefits.

“A number of EAS airlines have been vocal about an alleged pilot shortage,” said Capt. Moak. “It is wrong for an airline that receives millions in federal EAS dollars to offer such poor wages and benefits that it cannot attract pilots and then use this inadequacy as an excuse to drop service to EAS communities.”

In addition, ALPA’s president denounced certain U.S. airlines that are attempting to use a contrived pilot shortage as an excuse to roll back the safety gains realized with the new pilot fatigue rule and first officer qualification requirements. “The new safety requirements were developed with input from industry, labor, and government,” said Capt. Moak. “The Regional Airline Association was co-chair of the Federal Aviation Administration’s First Officer Qualifications Aviation Rulemaking Committee and the airlines have had years to prepare for their implementation.”

In its testimony, ALPA called for:

•    Congress to examine with the Department of Transportation the government’s relationship with regional airlines that accept millions of dollars under its EAS program while offering wages so low they cannot fill their pilot seats.
•    Congress to restore loan guarantees for college and university flight students and work with the airlines to offset pilots’ flight training expenses.
•    The U.S. government to ensure that the U.S. airline industry does business on a level playing field that allows U.S. airlines to compete and prevail internationally by, among other actions, limiting inappropriate regulations and reducing airline taxes.

“Stronger U.S. airlines mean better profits, more flights for small communities, and improved wages and benefits to attract and retain qualified airline pilots,” Capt. Moak concluded.

A4A launches campaign to restore transparency in airfare advertising rules

Airlines for America (A4A), the industry trade organization for the leading US airlines, has launched a campaign calling on the Administration and Members of Congress to take action to restore transparency in the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) airline advertising rules to ensure consumers know exactly how much of their travel dollars are going to federal taxes.

In a release, A4A stated: “In 2012, the federal government ended a 25-year-old practice that enabled airlines to clearly delineate in ads both the base airfare and the amount of taxes and fees that customers had to pay for a ticket. Because of that ruling, the government today is able to hide the outsized, ever-increasing amount that airline customers pay in government-imposed levies. In fact, the government’s ability to conceal such extra costs actually increases the temptation of lawmakers to raise taxes on airlines and their passengers and further puts air travel at a competitive disadvantage to other modes of transportation that do not have to include taxes in their fares, which ultimately hurts our economy and jobs.”

“Four decades ago, taxes and fees accounted for less than one tenth of the price of an airline ticket. Today, the amount has skyrocketed to nearly a quarter of the price or $62 on a typical $300 roundtrip domestic ticket. That amount is scheduled to rise in July to $63 when the Transportation Security Administration’s passenger tax increases to $5.60 on a one-way trip. It could go even higher if other taxes proposed by the Obama administration become law.”

A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio noted that airlines have increased ticket transparency to unprecedented levels by breaking out the cost of services customers want so they can customize their travel experience, while also fighting against tax hikes that drive up the cost of travel. The government, he says, continues to bury federally imposed taxes in the advertised cost of a ticket, making it more difficult for travelers to see what part of their ticket goes to air travel and what part goes to Washington. Calio issued a call to action for Congress and the Administration to restore the transparency that airline customers deserve.
“The government is playing a game of hide and seek by burying government taxes in the cost of a ticket – it’s adding insult to injury for airline customers already paying more than their fair share to Uncle Sam,” said Calio. “Today’s travelers want to know what they are paying for, and we urge the Administration and Congress to follow the lead of the airlines and give consumers the information they need and the transparency they deserve.”

Dino D'Amore
By Dino D'Amore May 1, 2014 13:26
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