In the Right

By Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA President

If all that it takes to win is being right, our union would always prevail. After all, ALPA’s positions are based on objective fundamentals: science, law, economics, principle, and data. But winning also requires the strength to convince and counter influencers at a scale that’s possible only when our 63,000 members speak with one voice.

Recently, ALPA moved the needle on the principle of fair competition for U.S. and Canadian airline workers when Air Italy announced that it would liquidate and immediately cease flying. The airline was 49 percent owned by Qatar Airways, which receives billions in subsidies from its government. Since 2018, Qatar Airways has used Air Italy as a proxy to serve the United States and Canada on a fifth-freedom basis with flights between Milan and Los Angeles and San Francisco, Calif.; Miami, Fla.; New York, N.Y.; and Toronto, Ont.

Through Qatar Airways’ proxy airline, the government of Qatar made U.S. and Canadian airlines vulnerable to subsidized foreign competition and threatened our members’ jobs. In addition, Air Italy’s shutdown caused disruptions and disorder for its passengers and employees—demonstrating the instability that cascades beyond our industry when state-subsidized airlines are permitted to break rules designed to defend the principle of fair competition.

In 2018, the Trump administration obtained agreements from the government of the United Arab Emirates, home country to Emirates and Etihad Airways, and the government of Qatar, which owns Qatar Airways, committing to do business transparently and agreeing not to operate additional fifth-freedom passenger flights to the United States.

The damage to fair competition and the societal uncertainty following the shuttering of Air Italy affirms the importance of our government’s securing compliance with these agreements. And it’s an example of how simply being right is never enough for ALPA pilots. Our union exposed the risk and pushed hard for the agreements.

In another instance of ALPA’s exercising our power to ensure what is right prevails can be found in our recent action to block a new effort to cut airline pilot training standards. In January, Delta Air Lines applied to the FAA for an exemption from federal aviation regulations that would allow the airline to use nonmotion flight-training devices in continuing qualification or recurrent evaluations.

The economic basis for Delta’s exemption request was apparent—and so was the significant risk to safety. ALPA’s national officers, Air Safety Organization, and staff collaborated with Delta Master Executive Council leaders to urge the FAA to dismiss the proposal. Because of our union’s commitment to safety and collective action, Delta Air Lines withdrew its application.

But ALPA isn’t stopping there to ensure airline pilots receive full-motion simulator training when it’s necessary. The Restoring Aviation Accountability Act—which was recently introduced in the Senate and is supported by ALPA—seeks to prohibit the FAA from granting any such exemption in the future. The act also helps ensure that pilots are more engaged in the FAA’s aircraft certification process and improves safety in the areas of delegated authority and oversight.

Our fight continues in urging Congress to pass legislation to apply flight-time/duty-time and minimum rest requirements for all-cargo pilots as they do to passenger pilots in the United States. ALPA’s position is based on science and upheld by lawmakers, investigatory agencies, and pilots across the industry—in essence, everyone except those special interests that are paid to think otherwise.

ALPA’s roots in the fundamental principle of the dignity of work have meant we’ve exposed how the flawed fee-for-departure business model negatively affects many of our members. The current structure means that fee-for-departure airlines are forced to compete against each other for mainline business—a practice that creates uncertainty and instability and harms pilots, their families, communities, and society at large.

My administration’s commitment to representing our members from recruitment to retirement means that we’re tackling issues such as the fee-for-departure business model. By working collectively, we’ll improve contracts for our members at these airlines, generate greater income equality among all airline pilots, and build a stronger career that helps shape a more diverse profession.

ALPA is in the right, but it’s only through our members’ unity that we’ll win the day.