U.S.-EU Open Skies Protocol Maintains Status Quo on Cabotage and Foreign
Control of U.S. Airlines
The draft Open Skies protocol initialed by the
United States and the European Union this week did not include language sought
by the European Union to allow cabotage or foreign control of U.S. airlines, and
the agreement underscored the value of high labor standards. While the protocol
has not yet been ratified, the agreement reflects important progress in
protecting U.S. jobs, but challenges lie ahead for ALPA to defend pilots and
other workers’ interests in connection with the U.S.-EU air services agreement.
On March 25, the United States and the European Union initialed a protocol
amending the 2007 “first stage” air transport agreement. Once the protocol
enters into force, it will complete the obligation contained in the first-stage
agreement for the two sides to engage in “second-stage negotiations” that
include the discussion of further liberalization of traffic rights, wet lease of
European airline aircraft to U.S. airlines on U.S. domestic routes, and
additional foreign investment opportunities.
During the negotiations, the European Union sought the right for its airlines
to carry U.S. cabotage traffic and conduct domestic wet lease operations on
domestic routes, as well as the elimination of restrictions on foreign
investment in U.S. airlines. The United States did not agree to any of these
requests. The two sides did agree to have the Joint Committee (the body
established to monitor developments under the agreement) undertake an annual
review of any new developments toward changes in the U.S. ownership and control
rules and to create a process of cooperation, “including appropriate
recommendations to the parties.” Any actual amendment of the ownership and
control rules would be left to Congress.
In addition, the protocol contains a new article on labor
that recognizes the value of high labor standards and notes that the Joint
Committee is to undertake regular consideration of the effects of the agreement
on airline workers and develop responses to those concerns where appropriate.
Also, among other things, the protocol contains new provisions on cooperation on
environmental issues, the process by which the two sides may implement
noise-based operating restrictions, and the reciprocal recognition of the
fitness and citizenship determinations by the aviation authorities of the
The United States and the European Union hope to complete internal government
reviews of the initialed protocol and formally sign off on the document by the
end of June.
ALPA participated as a member of the U.S. delegation and worked with the U.S.
negotiators, the Obama Administration and the Transportation Trades Department
of the AFL-CIO throughout the two years of negotiations to advance the interests
of the Association’s members and U.S. airline workers.