August 12 - The Great US Airline Job Loss Hoax


INDUSTRY ANALYSIS

By Kevin Mitchell

 

However, the anti-Open Skies lobbying campaign does pose a substantial threat to US aerospace manufacturing and tourism-related jobs

Lies repeated often remain lies. Such is the case of anti-Open Skies protectionists Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines (Big 3) who continue to falsely claim US airline jobs are being decimated by alleged unfair competitors Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways (Gulf Carriers). 

No need to take my word for it. The US Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) compiles and reports monthly US airline employment data. BTS is the gold standard for transportation data. It has no dog in the Open Skies fight, and therefore its independent data deserves to be considered dispositive on this issue. 

According to BTS, in January 2015, when the Big 3 began their anti-consumer, anti-Open Skies lobbying campaign, major US airlines employed 539,200 workers. BTS’s most recent May 2019 data shows US airline employment has soared to 704,294 workers. 

So much for the protectionists’ false narrative. US major airlines have added 143,933 jobs in just the last four years. A whopping 26 percent increase according to BTS. 

The same is true for each of the Big 3, which, over the last four years, have been on hiring sprees. Delta has added 9,515 jobs (11.8 percent), American 9,347 jobs (9.5 percent) and United 6,582 jobs (7.8 percent).       

So much for the job-related political hysteria that the protectionists are seeking to concoct under false pretenses. Do they not know that DOT tracks airline employment data and makes its data publicly available on a monthly basis?

It is widely known that the Big 3’s long-sought Oval Office meeting with President Trump on July 18 was a colossal failure. The Big 3 thought 30-second sound-bite commercials on Fox and Friends, which made outlandish job-loss claims, alone would carry the day in the Oval Office. 

Arrogantly, they thought all they needed to do was show-up (at least Doug Parker of American and Oscar Munoz of United), and take a victory lap. They fatally underestimated President Trump. He wanted facts and said he expects the Big 3 to rely on the long-established International Air Transportation Fair Competitive Practices Act (IATFCPA) process to have DOT rigorously evaluate the merits of their allegations. 

It was a lethal outcome for the Big 3. They have long sought to avoid DOT’s exacting IATFCPA process at all cost precisely because it is fact-based and would require them to show commercial harm despite over $40 billion in collective tax-free profits since their lobbying campaign started. 

For decades the Big 3 have consistently relied on the IATFCPA process whenever they had concerns about the competitive practices of foreign carriers and their governments, and President Trump simply required them to continue that past practice. 

The truth is a huge number of American jobs are at stake in the Open Skies debate. However, it is the Big 3 - not the Gulf Carriers - who are putting tens of thousands of US jobs at risk.

Take manufacturing jobs for instance. Next year, Boeing is preparing to launch its next-generation 777X aircraft. Boeing’s 777X program is a significant engine for US job creation from Boeing’s workers to the 777X’s massive nationwide supply chain, including many medium and small businesses. What airlines are supporting Boeing and its 777X-related job creation in America? 

To date, Boeing has sold 344 777X aircraft. Of these, 235, or 68 percent, have been purchased by the Gulf Carriers. Emirates, already the largest Boeing 777 operator in the world, purchased 150 777Xs alone in the largest commercial airline order in history. These Gulf Carrier 777X orders will create and support hundreds of thousands of US manufacturing jobs.

How about the Big 3 with their record-setting, tax-free profits? Given their self-professed concern for American jobs and with pockets bulging with tax-free profits, surely they too are big purchasers of the Boeing 777X aircraft, right? No, Delta, American and United have not purchased a single 777X.  Zero. Judge the Big 3 by their actions, not pandering political rhetoric.

Delta, in fact, does not have a single outstanding order for a Boeing aircraft. This complete lack of support for US aerospace workers and Boeing’s nationwide supply chain is not lost on President Trump who reportedly expressed his displeasure about it during the Big 3’s disastrous Oval Office meeting.

Instead of supporting 777X-related American jobs, the Big 3 are demanding that the Trump Administration competitively hobble the Gulf Carriers, and thereby potentially put Boeing 777X orders - and 777X related American jobs - at risk. Some champions for US workers!

Who is the threat to American manufacturing jobs? Not the Gulf Carriers.

How about US tourism and hospitality-related jobs? According to the US Travel Association, the US market share of long-haul global travel has slid the last four years. The result: losses to the U.S. economy of 14 million international visitors, $59 billion in international traveler spending, and 120,000 U.S. jobs. If this trend continues through 2022, as US Travel expects, then that will mean the loss of an additional 41 million visitors, $180 billion in international traveler spending and 266,000 jobs.

Obviously, now, more than ever, US tourism and hospitality-related jobs need a boost from increased international visitation, especially facilitated by foreign carrier new entry. However, the Big 3 are advocating for the exact opposite. They are demanding that the Trump Administration further limit international visitors by restricting international flights to the US in violation of Open Skies agreements.

Who is the threat to American tourism and hospitality-related jobs? Not the Gulf Carriers.

John Samuelson, the International President of the Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, recently summed it up perfectly in an August 5 letter to President Trump. He described it as “totally hypocritical” for the Big 3 to make US job-related arguments to support their anti-Open Skies/Gulf Carrier lobbying campaign to kill competition, and their claim to be champions of American workers as demonstrably false. Mr. Samuelson noted that “[a]t the very moment these airlines are asking for you to shield them from foreign competition they are actively working to offshore as many U.S.-based jobs as they possibly can.”

President Trump is right. As I have said for years, the Big 3’s allegations must be tested by a fact-based IATFCPA evaluation, not accepted at face value and acted upon by a political knee-jerk reaction. With the Big 3’s great US airline job loss hoax fully exposed by DOT’s own BTS data, it is very telling regarding their overall truthfulness and veracity. It also tells you all you need to know as to why a rigorous fact-driven IATFCA process is the last thing in the world the Big 3 want. 

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