Points of view on airline industry's lobbying agenda

 
 
Posted10/14/2015 7:00 AM

The three U.S. legacy airlines - Delta, American and United - have been lobbying Congress and the administration to ward off competition from foreign airlines they say are heavily subsidized or use cheaper labor. At the same time, airlines are opposing Obama administration attempts to impose regulations aimed at protecting consumers. The carriers say they don't see why the government should intervene on consumers' behalf.

What people on both sides have to say:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

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"If the government let airlines run like any other business, that's really what we're looking for. Don't impede us. Let us function and grow and be profitable and do the things that profitable companies do. How is that in conflict with customer or consumer protection?" - Jean Medina, spokeswoman for the trade association Airlines for America.

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"We've seen airlines trying to grow through mergers instead of competition because they've realized that if they try to grow through a merger it's a much more effective and safer means of controlling gates and routes and fares than it is to try to go in and beat the other airline to death where you both lose money." - Joshua Schank, former president of the Eno Center for Transportation, a think tank.

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"There are many airlines in the world that are subsidized, but when you look at the degree, the amount of subsidization from these two countries (United Arab Emirates and Qatar) to these three airlines (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar), it dwarfs anything else being done out there. The level of subsidization is actually distorting the market. It is not making it free, fair and level." - Tim Canoll, president of the Air Line Pilots Association.

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"What I think is at stake is basically the free market in aviation. ... Their agenda in Washington is really to eliminate comparison shopping and competition. A free market works by having open pricing and by having competition, and that allows comparison shopping." - Charlie Leocha, president of the consumer group Travelers United.

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"Delta's efforts alongside other U.S. airlines and airline labor groups on both the (Export-Import) bank and Gulf carrier issues are focused not on gaining government protection from competition, but on allowing healthy competition across borders free of government subsidy and distortion." - statement by Delta Air Lines.

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Delta, American and United "don a fat necklace of garlic around their necks to ward off the government when it talks about consumer welfare and consumer protections. But they roll out the welcome mat for government efforts to block innovators and disruptors coming in to upset their cozy oligarchy." - John Byerly, a former State Department official who advises, but does not speak for, the Gulf carriers.

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