WASHINGTON – Today, aviation leaders warned how the nation’s largest regional air carrier, SkyWest Airlines, is attempting to undermine aviation safety with its petition to the Department of Transportation (DOT) to operate under public charter rules. Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) President Captain Jason Ambrosi and Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) President Sara Nelson joined former Congressman and long-time chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Peter Defazio for a media briefing moderated by Greg Regan, president of the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO. Watch their remarks here.
Today’s briefing follows a letter that 10 aviation unions sent to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su, Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen and TSA Administrator David Pekoske, denouncing the petition from SkyWest and highlighting the importance of existing safety regulations.
“Aviation is the safest mode of transportation in the world because we demanded changes when lives were lost or harmed,” said AFA President Sara Nelson. “Now, the largest regional carrier is trying to skirt decades of safety regulations to create a business model solely based on avoiding these critical regulations. This threatens aviation for all crew and travelers along with service for all of our communities. We won’t let that happen.”
Frontline labor leaders know first-hand the importance of rigorous safety and training rules in the aviation industry and are deeply concerned about SkyWest’s scheme to evade these standards.
“The first officer qualification law approved by Congress in 2010 was arguably the single most impactful safety improvement in U.S. aviation history. It mandated that all airline pilots should have the same high levels of training and experience, regardless of whether they’re in the left seat or right seat.,” said ALPA president Capt. Jason Ambrosi. “SkyWest is now trying to subvert that law and operate as a public charter, while continuing to receive generous public subsidies. If approved, the SkyWest scheme would gut the safety rule, make flying less safe and reward them with taxpayer funding.”
Former Congressman DeFazio, who possesses nearly four decades of transportation and aviation policy expertise, detailed how SkyWest’s attempt to abuse an obscure regulation in order to more cheaply conduct flying will put communities at risk.
“We don’t want to go back to the old days. After the Colgan Air tragedy we finally put in place meaningful training, qualification requirements, and adequate rest minimums and duty maximums,” stated Mr. DeFazio. “We should not go back to the days when it took fewer hours to copilot a flight than it took to become a hairdresser in my home state of Oregon. We should always put the safety of the traveling public and the lives and working conditions of the people who make aviation possible above corporate greed.”