Airline Unions Push For New Legislation To Keep Out Long Haul Low Cost Competition

Forget “Fight For 15!” The Air Line Pilots Association is lobbying for a new bill released by House Transportation Committee Chairman Pete DeFazio (D-Airlines For America) among others that would effectively prevent foreign airlines from flying to the U.S. if they aren’t paying competitive wages.

The measure is also being supported by the Allied Pilots Association (American Airlines pilots), Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (Sara Nelson), International Association of Machinists, Teamsters, Transportation Workers Union, UNITE HERE and others. We thought the campaign by U.S. airlines against Open Skies Treaties was over but now we have the ‘Fair and Open Skies Act’.

Members of Congress specifically cite the Obama Administration’s decision to allow Norwegian to fly to the U.S., which it was legally entitled to do, as what they’re trying to prevent in the future. They don’t want more Norwegians that bring down the price of airfare and make it difficult for higher cost U.S. airlines to compete.

Copyright william87 / 123RF Stock Photo

Already in the last15 months the U.S. federal government has appropriated $79 billion for U.S. airlines, not counting ticket tax relief and the ability to forestall pension contributions (placing pensions as a greater potential taxpayer liability), as well as billions to airports. Now ALPA and a bipartisan group in Congress want to foist higher airfares on customers to protect union wages. At some point the cost per job to taxpayers needs to be a simple, transparent appropriation that can be voted up or down.

Fortunately this legislation currently has next to no chance of passage in the near-term. Unless it’s included in a bill that qualifies for reconciliation, it won’t move through the Senate because it won’t garner 60 votes. And it’s questionable whether it could qualify for inclusion in a reconciliation package because that would require arguing its primary function is budgetary rather than regulatory (in other words, the exact opposite of its purpose).

Make though mistake though this is unions against workers as long as those workers aren’t their own members. It’s a way to keep costs high and fares high. They’ll claim it has something to do with safety but foreign carriers operating to the U.S. have to abide by U.S. safety standards. Even their home country safety regulators are audited – not merely the airlines themselves.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Thank you, Gary for highlighting this brazen attempt to deny choice to American consumers.

    Restrictions on foreign airlines flying to the US, like taxi medallions and beautician licenses, are touted as protection for American consumers when they’re just the opposite: They protect and entrench monopolies and enable them to gouge us. DeFazio is the worst sort of panderer.

  2. Covid relief ensured that the US airline industry would not collapse and indeed no airline was forced into bankruptcy.
    Market and labor forces will erode the longstanding shift of the market to low cost and ultra low cost carriers that has been taking place in the US for 40 years with the greatest impact in American and United strength markets.
    WN employees were “underpaid” relative to the legacies years ago but that script flipped about a decade ago. Wage growth is related to market success and unions don’t want to have to compete in the free marketplace.

  3. All European low cost airlines pay fair market wages. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have cabin crews. What U.S. unions want is for airlines to pay wages commensurate with 65 year old grandmas that I’ve seen on an 11 hour American 772 flight (I assume in economy as I was business and didn’t see her during the flight). In my one experience with Norwegian Premium, all the cabin crew were young and White. They were friendly, cared about their job, and were very attentive. It’s the complete opposite with U.S. Airlines and especially U.S. Legacy Airlines. European airlines recognize that flight attendants will move on to other careers best suited for raising a family after 30. There is the occasional male or female purser in his or her 40s. U.S. airlines have people who are 15 years past prime and who don’t care about providing good service. They are disjointed by travel that should have stopped when they reached 30. Flight attendants in the U.S. used to be good when young ones would get married, have kids, and leave jobs open for younger people starting their lives. Now, the only friendly flight attendants in the Big 3 are gays who take pride in their work and like to converse with passengers. Passengers are stuck with poor service, rudeness, and unfriendliness from the others. It’s why I don’t give cabin crew the benefit of the doubt when they say a passenger did this or that. Very often they abuse their power over flight safety to silence passengers who complain about poor service. Of course the government takes what flight attendants say as gospel. Both are evil.

  4. Leave it to Congress to try and force us to pay more for fewer routes with worse service.

  5. The US shipping industry was decimated by the flag of convenience model. Ships are rarely registered in the US because ship owners register them in other countries. This is why after every cruise commercial you see/hear a disclaimer that the ships are registered in another country.

    This cannot be allowed in the US or we will see the demise of US airlines.

  6. @Jackson Waterson re: “ Now, the only friendly flight attendants in the Big 3 are gays who take pride in their work and like to converse with passengers.”

    Once a slight over generalization, though seemingly now the norm. I know I’m going to have a fantastic flight when I’m told that I look fabulous while boarding…

  7. @Jaybird
    “demise of US airlines.”….I like that. What I’d like even better is SQ or KE operating the 0630 JFK/LAX. Let’s actually give Americans a choice and see what happens.

  8. @chris

    Be careful what you wish for. Americans are notorious for wanting everything at the very cheapest and then complaining about the really lousy service/performance.

  9. This is the union doing what unions do, protect/enhance the membership. This is about as silly as requiring that any product that comes into the USA is produced with labor that is equally compensated as US labor. US airline pilots are paid exceptionally well as it is, so protecting the airline protects their golden goose. Price competition is what keeps the long haul routes reasonably priced. They know that the USA has no direct influence abroad, so being isolationist might achieve the desired outcome. There are times when you can get a plane ride to Asia for the same price as a ticket from NY to LA. Competition is good.

  10. It’d be interesting if another country passed a law specifying that US airlines couldn’t fly there if we paid above a certain level or had unionized flight crew. The blatant stupidity and arrogance on this attempt is pretty appalling. The government should just sit this one out.

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