“Nation needs a new airline policy”

“If Washington is serious about boosting the economy and creating jobs, it needs look no further than the U.S. airline industry. Every day, U.S. airlines safely and efficiently transport 2 million passengers and 50,000 tons of cargo. Commercial aviation drives 10 million jobs and $1 trillion in economic activity, and U.S. airlines could contribute at an even higher level if they operated in an environment that enabled them to effectively compete globally.”

So said Nicholas Calio, President and CEO of industry group Airlines for America (A4A). He announced details of a ‘new airline policy’ in a media campaign aimed at reducing taxes. “The policy seeks to reduce taxes, reform the industry’s regulatory burden, modernize our nation’s air traffic control system, stabilize runaway energy prices and enable the industry to compete globally.” His sentiments were then immediately echoed by numerous airline executives.

As an example, he stated: “The U.S. air traffic control system dates back to the 1950s. Implementing new policies and procedures would enable airlines to leverage technology investments they have already made ….” Part of this is true; our present ATC system does date back to its earlier years, which includes the 1950’s (such as the Grand Canyon midair in ‘56, and Congress’ legislation that formed the first FAA in ’58). But, part of this is also highly misleading. Calio implies that controllers have equipment stuck in the 1950’s; as if they continue to drive Edsel’s to work, wear slacks and ties, and chain-smoke through long shifts to bear with crackling radio static while screaming at a heavy mic and shoving paper strips around. Ain’t so. Just look at all the other news articles (and the massive FAA budget) touting digital technologies such as GPS, collision-avoidance, and communications systems.

Calio goes on to make another misleading statement. “U.S. airlines face increased competition from foreign carriers that operate in much more favorable policy environments in their home countries. We need to level the playing field so that American carriers can better compete with these foreign competitors.”

This seems a bit fantastic, given the recent actions by EU to suspend their carbon taxation scheme. Is it not widely understood that EU is far more environmentally protective than the U.S.? It would be interesting to hear more from A4A and others, detailing some specific examples of FAA policies that disadvantage our domestic air carriers, in relation to EU or Asian carriers.

[link to the full statement by Calio]*[link to USA Today article]