How Trump can put America first in the international airline industry

By Jon Weaks, President, SWAPA

President Trump’s recent executive action calling for a federal investigation into foreign steel arriving into the United States is the kind of decisive action needed to ensure that American jobs and our robust economy are not at risk or being taken advantage of by our trade partners. We need the same action from President Trump to address an analogous problem in international aviation.

America’s all-important airline industry faces tremendous risk. Airline seat dumping is currently being practiced by three Gulf airlines: Emirates and Etihad of the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar Airways of the State of Qatar. These airlines are able to pursue such predatory practices because they receive massive, illegal subsidies from their governments. Indeed, in the past decade alone, they have received more than $50 billion from their government owners in direct violation of the aviation trade agreements held between the United States and the UAE and Qatar.

President Trump campaigned on ending such harmful trade violations, and given the high level of concern about this situation, it is critical that he take action and stand up to these foreign governments and state-owned airlines who are artificially distorting the aviation market and hurting American jobs in the process.

For each daily international airline route lost or forgone by U.S. airlines to unfair competition, over 1,500 U.S. jobs are lost. These are good paying, middle class jobs that support hundreds of thousands of American families. Just as President Trump has taken action through executive order on steel dumping, we need that same strength to be shown in regards to aviation seat dumping.

There are, however, entities that are combatting our efforts for fair competition through pay-for-play special interests and dark money. The spread of fake news by entities such as the for-profit Business Travel Coalition (BTC), the misrepresentation of the facts by the U.S. Travel Association (which is financially supported by Emirates and Etihad), and incomplete information taken as fact has muddied the waters on this issue. If we are to do nothing to stand up to these bad actors, our economy, and even our national security remains under threat.

This issue has been debated in the public eye for over two years now, and while the Obama administration failed to act, the Trump administration has a golden opportunity to ensure that American workers and our Open Skies Agreements are not being used to undermine our vital aviation industry or its workers. U.S. aviation jobs are a critical piece of the American economy, so we must act steadfastly to safeguard against unfair competition from foreign carriers who seek to distort the market to their advantage.

There are a lot of forces working against us. From $50 billion in illegal subsidies, to fake media and pay-for-play advocacy, and the inaction of the past administration, U.S. airlines and their employees are operating on an unlevel playing field. That is why we are asking President Trump to rise to the occasion and hold the Gulf carriers accountable. It is time to put American jobs first.

Jon Weaks is president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, the sole bargaining unit for the more than 8,500 pilots of Southwest Airlines.

Article originally published on TheHill.com