December 12 - Consumer Groups To US Transportation Secretary Chao

The Honorable Elaine L. Chao


US Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Avenue, N.E.

Washington, DC   20590

Re: IATFCPA Appropriately Resolving The Open Skies Dispute

Dear Secretary Chao:

Our undersigned groups are focused on the best interests of airline consumers. Accordingly, we are very concerned by the Open Skies debate that is nearing its third anniversary. The reason for this heightened concern is Open Skies indisputably has been one of the most important and successful pro-consumer policies in the last 25 years of national aviation policy. Abandoning it now, or even tinkering with it if there is a perceived political need to pacify Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines (Big Three), would have devastating consequences for competitive choice and the consumers we represent.

Given the record-setting profits the Big Three continue to earn, we hoped that their attack on Open Skies would have fizzled long ago because they obviously have no credibility to argue that they purportedly are suffering commercial harm. That clearly is a political soundbite argument with no basis in fact. Yet, their political campaign to thwart competition and limit passenger choice continues unabated. Given the way that the Big Three shamelessly nickel and dime passengers to generate billions of dollars annually in tax-free ancillary fees, they seem to have an endless coffer of money to continue this political campaign against longstanding, pro-consumer Open Skies policy irrespective of the fact that it clearly has no basis in fact.

We believe it is time that this issue is put to rest. It is an enormous distraction for aviation policy, including passenger-friendly policy priorities that we support. To end this matter once and for all, we strongly encourage you to self-initiate a proceeding under the International Air Transportation Fair Competitive Practices Act of 1974 (IATFCPA). 

For more than 40 years IATFCPA has served US airlines and passengers well. It is the Congressionally-approved process to consider matters such as this. In fact, the last IATFCPA case considered and resolved by the Department arose under an Open Skies agreement, in that case the US-EU Open Skies agreement in 2013. It is a fair, independent and expeditious process. Both sides should make their case to the Department’s expert and professional staff and stand, or fall, based on the merits.

Madame Secretary, it is time to end the day-in and day-out political noise about Open Skies. An IATFCPA review would do that. We, therefore, urge you to swiftly initiate an IATFCPA case to review and expeditiously evaluate the allegations and reach a conclusion based solely on the merits untainted by political noise. That is the right and best course forward for consumers. 

Thank you very much for considering our views on this very important issue to US air travelers. 



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