Here We Go Again

John Hawks, ARTA President As President Reagan used to say, “Well, there you go again.” Last week, the chief executive officers of Delta, American, Northwest and AirTran testified before the House Aviation Subcommittee in Washington. Their subject? They need more federal aid to stay afloat. You’ll reme

By: John Hawks, ARTA President

As President Reagan used to say, “Well, there you go again.” Last week, the chief executive officers of Delta, American, Northwest and AirTran testified before the House Aviation Subcommittee in Washington. Their subject? They need more federal aid to stay afloat.

You’ll remember that within 72 hours of the Sept. 11 tragedies at a time when rescue workers were still searching the rubble for survivors the airlines’ million-dollar lobbying machine already had a draft bill presented on Capitol Hill asking for billions in direct taxpayer grants and guaranteed loans. At the time, ARTA completely opposed the federal bailout and we took a lot of criticism for it. Now, we’re proudly resuming our opposition to federal aid. It’s time to let the marketplace not Congress determine which airlines stay in business.

Here are the facts: Before Sept. 11, the airlines were already projected to lose $3.4 billion in 2001. Their troubles started well before Sept. 11, with bloated labor contracts, out-of-control operating costs and what ARTA believes to be an illegal campaign to put travel agencies out of business.

Now, I have to echo what Business Travel Coalition President Kevin Mitchell said in a recent statement: “U.S. major network airlines have refused to take any responsibility whatsoever for the financial crisis gripping their industry and have not addressed fundamental cost and productivity problems that are the root of their problems. It is time for the marketplace to punish and reward management and labor decisions in the airline industry.”

We’re filing opposing comments with the House subcommittee, and we may ask ARTA agents in key Congressional districts to start calling their House members. As small retail travel agents, we face free-market forces every day and it’s high time that the airlines do the same.

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