Legacy Carriers Demand Actions That Would Hurt U.S. Jobs

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Delta, United, and American (“legacy carriers”) have launched an aggressive and misleading lobbying campaign to restrict access to U.S. routes for two U.S. Open Skies partners–the UAE (Emirates and Etihad) and Qatar (Qatar Airways).

Although they claim that they want to protect U.S. jobs from unfair competition, the restrictions they seek would harm millions of U.S. jobs in aviation, tourism, and other sectors that depend on U.S. Open Skies agreements. By contrast, the legacy carriers making these false claims are experiencing a record surge in profits.

The Legacy Carriers Speak Only For Themselves, Not The Affected Industry

  • Most U.S. airlines are not aligned with Delta, United, and American: U.S. Airlines for Open Skies (USAOS) member companies, as well as other U.S. airlines not aligned with the legacy carriers, collectively employ more than 942,000 workers, almost three-and-a-half times the number of workers employed by the legacy carriers (275,000).

The Legacy Carriers Are Not Harmed By Competition From Gulf Carriers

  • U.S. passenger airlines are making record profits: According to Department of Transportation records, the operating profits of U.S. passenger carriers, including the legacy carriers, have skyrocketed 430 percent over the past five years.
  • Employment in the U.S. airline industry is at a 16-year high: According to Airlines for America, U.S. passenger and cargo airlines ended 2016 with the highest employment level in 16 years. Employment among U.S. passenger airlines has grown year-over-year for 38 consecutive months, with the rate of growth hovering at four percent–twice the rate of job growth for the overall economy.
  • Wage growth for U.S. passenger airline employees is strong: According to Airlines for America, the average wage at U.S. passenger airlines in 2016 rose 35 percent from 2010, well above the U.S. private-sector average. U.S. passenger and cargo airline expenditures on wages and benefits rose 44 percent over the same timeframe to $44 billion.
  • U.S. airlines are carrying a record number of passengers: According to Airlines for America, an all-time high of 823 million passengers were enplaned in 2016. A record-high 145 million passengers–nearly 2.4 million per day–are expected to fly globally on U.S. airlines this year between March 1 and April 30, an increase of four percent over last spring’s 140 million passengers.

The Legacy Carriers’ Demands Threaten Millions Of U.S. Tourism And Hospitality Jobs

  • The Open Skies regime, and its benefits to the U.S. travel sector, would be put at risk if the legacy carriers succeed in getting the U.S. government to restrict access: The unilateral actions demanded by the legacy carriers would invite retaliation by the UAE and Qatar, encourage other Open Skies partners to take restrictive actions, deter countries from entering into Open Skies agreements with the United States, and raise questions about the United States’ commitment to the Open Skies regime.
  • The more than 100 U.S. Open Skies agreements have brought millions of new international visitors to the United States, supporting over 15 million U.S. tourism and hospitality jobs: According to the U.S. Travel Association, 75 million international visitors spent nearly $250 billion in the United States in 2016 alone, benefiting a wide array of travel-related businesses such as hotels, rental car companies, restaurants, and retailers. In fact, according to research conducted by Hawaiian Airlines, adding a single daily wide-body flight carrying predominantly foreign-originating tourists can result in $65 million in direct spending, $117 million in U.S. GDP growth, and more than 1,150 U.S. jobs.
  • According to the U.S. Travel Association, the Gulf carriers alone brought 1.1 million international visitors to the United States in 2014, supporting nearly 50,000 jobs. These visitors also generated $1.1 billion in tax revenue, and contributed $4.1 billion to U.S. GDP. In 2015, the addition of just one new Emirates flight to Orlando created 1,400 new jobs in the region.