Tuesday, December 09, 2008

American Airlines pilots want decision on carrier's anti-trust immunity postponed

by B. N. Sullivan

Allied Pilots Association logoIn August of this year, American Airlines (AA), British Airways, and Iberia signed a joint business agreement on flights between Europe and North America in a plan "to expand their global cooperation." The carriers are asking for worldwide antitrust immunity from the U.S. Department of Transportation, and regulatory authorities in the European Union. Finnair and Royal Jordanian are included in the antitrust immunity application. The Allied Pilots Association (APA), the union representing pilots at American Airlines, expressed concerns regarding the impact the business agreement could have on job security, among other issues. Today the pilots reiterated their job security concerns, particularly in light of the ongoing economic downturn, asking U.S. officials to defer a decision on AA's business deals with foreign carriers.

In a statement to the press, APA President Captain Lloyd Hill said, "Because of the potential for further job losses in the nation’s airline industry, we urge Congress and the outgoing Bush Administration to withhold judgment on American Airlines’ application for worldwide antitrust immunity and related joint business agreement until a thorough assessment can be conducted."

"Just last week the U.S. suffered the biggest monthly job loss in 34 years," Hill went on. "Right now there is understandable concern about the many jobs that would be lost if one of our nation’s automakers were to fail.

"The last thing our nation’s economy needs is even more layoffs in the airline industry. Accordingly, APA urges the federal government to proceed with caution," he said.

The union's primary concern is that that if American Airlines' deals are approved, the carrier’s employees face the prospect of having their jobs outsourced to overseas workers.

Hill described last week’s announcement that British Airways is seeking to acquire Australian airline Qantas as a "further wrinkle" in an already complex and unprecedented web of international deal-making. The Courier-Mail, Brisbane, Australia’s daily newspaper, reported that a merger between British Airways and Qantas could generate savings by "cutting jobs, and duplication of routes and services," illustrating the impact on workers and flight schedules when former competitors join forces.

"We believe the best course of action right now for policymakers is to ‘do no harm’ by postponing any decision on these deals until a thorough assessment is conducted," said Capt. Hill. "It is our sincere hope that before reaching any decision on American Airlines' plans, policymakers clearly understand where these deals could lead."