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Newsflash from ALPA International

U.S. Department of Transportation Reverses Bush-Era Decision on Cabotage
ALPA scores advocacy hat trick, protects your flying
August 12, 2009

After months of ALPA’s efforts in lobbying and educating U.S. regulators about the negative effect of cabotage, the Department of Transportation on Monday reversed a decision made last year by the Bush administration that allowed a series of charter flights by Air Canada to provide transportation for the National Hockey League’s Boston Bruins during the 2008–2009 season. That decision opened the door to additional contracts the carrier has secured since with the Milwaukee Bucks and the St. Louis Blues.

“When it comes to fighting cabotage, ALPA scored a hat trick with this DOT decision,” said Capt. Paul Rice, ALPA’s first vice president. “After basically getting stonewalled by the Bush administration, we kept in the game by engaging the new administration on this issue, and working with the AFL-CIO and the TTD, as well as the major U.S. airline trade associations—ATA and NACA—to put a stop to this blatant violation of the U.S. code.”

The department’s investigation into this matter found that Air Canada carried cabotage traffic on these charter operations, concluding that in light of “the inherently variable nature of a sports team’s personnel during a season, there appears to be no practical means to ensure that there would not be carriage of U.S. domestic-only traffic during any season-long contract.” The letter, which DOT sent to Air Canada’s regulatory lawyer on Monday, went on to state: “We do not see any way in which Air Canada can continue to market and operate season-long charter contracts in the future for sports teams,” and advises the carrier “to take steps to cancel any such current contracts.”

ALPA began to work on overturning DOT’s decision to permit Air Canada to carry the Bruins immediately after the department issued it last year. ALPA then teamed up with industry partners to build the argument for the DOT that the charter flights—which at one point included 18 consecutive segments between U.S. cities over a two month period—directly violated U.S. Code Title 49. The Association also engaged congressmen, including Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), who urged the DOT to revisit its decision on this matter.

“ALPA brought it to the Obama administration’s attention, and the DOT started an investigation,” Rice said. “While the investigation is still under way, this letter proves that we were right. It shows how your union protects your flying and works to reverse bad decisions that could set devastating precedents for undermining laws that every country and every airline should adhere to and respect.”

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