Imagine if you could just press a button to help make air travel better for you and everyone – the good news is you can.
Airlines for America (A4A), the industry trade organization for leading U.S.airlines, is promoting a National Airline Policy that will make air travel better for our coworkers, customers and our investors. United is fully supporting A4A in this endeavor and we ask you to join us in sending a message to Washington that now is the time to enact policies that benefit our travelers and our industry.
A4A’s National Airline Policy recognizes that a healthy and globally competitive U.S. airline industry is good for coworkers and the communities where we live, not to mention the travelers, businesses and shippers we serve and our overall economy. Airlines are a critical engine of economic growth and employment in the U.S., and our government should enact policies that reflect the significant role airlines and their employees play in connecting people and goods around the world. Airlines move approximately two million passengers and 50,000 tons of cargo each day, and commercial aviation helps to drive more than 10 million American jobs and 5 cents of every dollar of U.S. gross domestic product.
Multiple federal government commissions, such as the Future of Aviation Advisory Committee that reports to the Secretary of Transportation, have made recommendations to strengthen the industry, and three federal airline commissions have provided policy blueprints. These recommendations and guidelines are included in the National Airline Policy.
Five pillars of the National Airline Policy
A cohesive National Airline Policy is built on these five key priorities:
• Reduce taxes
• Reform the regulatory burden
• Modernize the air traffic system
• Compete globally
• Stabilize energy prices
Jean Medina, senior vice president of Communications at A4A (and former United coworker), explains that the federal tax burden on a typical $300 round-trip ticket has nearly tripled since 1972, rising from $22 (7 percent) to $61 (20 percent). In fact, since 1990, the number of special federal aviation taxes and fees has increased from six to 17 and the total amount paid has grown annually from $3.7 billion to $19 billion. “These taxes are higher than the federal taxes on alcohol and tobacco, so called ‘sin products’ which are taxed to discourage their use” she says, “Yet, we want people to travel—air travel drives the economy and jobs.” Reducing the overwhelming federal tax burden will help keep airfare affordable for customers, while enabling us to reinvest in our people and our product to make travel more efficient and enjoyable from take-off to landing.
“We’re among the most heavily regulated, deregulated industries around,” states Medina. Though the industry was deregulated in 1978, we still have to follow inefficient and costly rules that are unrelated to safety or the customer experience, but add cost and complexity to our business. Reforming these rules and adopting regulations that are relevant to the real issues would help lower our costs.
Modernize the air traffic system
Flight delays and cancellations have a huge financial impact– costing the United States an estimated $31 billion annually. An overhaul of today’s outdated air traffic control system could save billions of dollars while transforming passengers’ air travel experience. Integrating updated technologies could help reduce delays and congestion while improving our environmental performance. NextGen technologies are tested, proven and ready to be put to use, we just need our government to leverage the investments United has already made so these benefits can be delivered to customers now.
Today, U.S. commercial airlines compete with foreign carriers, many of which are owned or subsidized by their own governments. They have favorable regulation, taxation and infrastructure policies in place that demonstrate government recognition of airlines as a strategic national asset, Medina says. To compete with foreign carriers and their expanding presence globally and here in the U.S., we need the U.S. Government to enact common-sense policies that enable U.S. airlines to compete on a level playing field against our global competitors.
Stabilize energy prices
The cost of jet fuel represents 35% of U.S. airlines’ operating expenses. The volatility of fuel prices affects the cost of air travel for everyone. “Without a guarantee of what you’re going to pay for fuel every day,” cautions Medina, “one penny increase in a gallon of fuel per year costs U.S. airlines $180 million.” We could reduce economic uncertainty for airlines, businesses and the public by stabilizing energy prices. This would also enable United to further promote investments in alternative fuels, improving our environmental footprint.
A national policy with a local impact
A cohesive National Airline Policy which views U.S. airlines as the strategic national asset they are will benefit the communities where we live and serve. A4A estimates that for every 100 jobs in the aviation industry, about 360 are supported outside of it in the local community. If airlines aren’t financially viable, small communities may suffer, with fewer flights and, ultimately, fewer employment opportunities. A competitive airline industry can also improve our local and national economies by encouraging more people to visit U.S. destinations and enabling more Americans to fly domestic airlines to travel abroad.It’s critical that Congress hears from United and our coworkers about how a National Airline Policy will create a better flight plan for everyone. We encourage you to “press the button” and sign the petition. To help broaden awareness of its mission, A4A has created a video that we’ll feature onboard our aircraft in December.