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Airline industry pushes for a ‘National Airline Policy’

The U.S. airline industry, represented by the trade organization Airlines for America (A4A), has started a push to convince the federal government to adopt what it calls a National Airline Policy—although on closer inspection, the policy it advocates looks simply like a lobbyist’s wish-list for changes favoring the industry.

A4A said it wants the government to adopt “a comprehensive policy that supports the integral role the domestic airline industry plays in connecting people and goods globally, spurs economic growth and creates more high-paying U.S. jobs.”

Sounds like a noble campaign. But in listing the specific elements of the policy that A4A wants to see, the group’s number one priority is reduced taxes on air travel—despite the fact that those taxes pay for the infrastructure that supports the air travel system. A4A notes that the current federal air travel tax rate “exceeds those on alcohol and tobacco, products that are taxed to discourage use.”

Next on the list, A4A wants the government to eliminate what it considers to be troublesome and unnecessary regulation of its member airlines. “Airlines are among the most highly regulated deregulated industries,” A4A says—burdened with rules “that add unnecessary costs and do not improve safety or the customer experience.” The airline deregulation law of 1978 only eliminated federal regulation of airline routes and fares, but not safety. In the past few years, the Obama Administration’s Transportation Department has been getting tough with carriers’ treatment of consumers, imposing new rules in areas like pricing transparency and extended tarmac delays.

The A4A agenda also calls for modernization of the air traffic system, a long-term project that is currently under way with deployment of NextGen satellite-based technology that should reduce delays and allow airlines to fly more direct routings.

The airline trade group has created a website at www.NationalAirlinePolicy.com where interested parties can sign an online petition requesting the government to act on these matters. A4A said it will also be running advertisements and social media campaigns in support of the effort, and will build “a coalition of state and local organizations, businesses and others to support the priorities of the policy.”

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