AFA Members, ALPA and other Unions, along with United Airlines management, rallied at Newark Airport to protest the launch of Emirates Airlines flight from Athens to Newark. This route is permissible under the U.S.-Gulf States Open Skies agreements. However, Emirates is only able to enter this obscure market due to enormous subsidies received from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government, in violation of this same agreement.
AFA United President Ken Diaz spoke about the impact on U.S. aviation jobs on Sunday. Below is the video and transcript of his speech.
Transcript of AFA United President Ken Diaz's speech:
Good morning everyone. Once again my name is Ken Diaz, I'm the United Master Executive Council President for United Airlines, who proudly represents the 24,000
plus Flight Attendants who make up the new United Airlines. I started my career in 1983 at People Express and then Continental Airlines in Newark. I proudly represent all Flight Attendants as Master Executive Council President. I know that we have Flight Attendants at United Airlines that are ready to work and achieve the greatest heights to make United Airlines number 1 in the industry again.
Since the days of 9/11, when this country was under attack and our airline was attacked, we have worked and clawed our way back through bankruptcies, cutbacks, stagnant work forces, to rise again, to a healthy airline, and a healthy United Airlines place in the aviation industry. And we are not going to sit back and watch that attacked by unfair competition from the gulf carriers.
There are those that have said we have made a remarkable comeback from where we were. People said that this merger wouldn't happen 7 years ago, as it went through all the ups and downs. "Couldn't survive." Well, we have survived, and we now speak with one voice at United Airlines.
We come here on Sunday, leaving our families, because we are your friends, your families, your next door neighbors, and we ask you to have our backs as we have the traveling public's back. All we're asking for is a level playing field. A playing field where we can compete against any airline in the world. We have the 86,000 workers at United Airlines that can compete, but we need a level playing field, and this is not a level playing field.
The Emirates-Athens flight starts tonight, and lands here around 10:00 pm. This is just the beginning. This is the latest threat, not only to United, but to U.S. airline aviation jobs in general. For each flight that they operate, economists have said that would cost close to 1,500 American jobs. This flight is a flight that doesn't sustain profitability all year round, but they chose this flight as a test of our government. Whether our government is going to stand up and fight for American workers and fight for American jobs, and enforce Open Skies.
The governments of the United Emirates and Qatar have provided enormous subsidies to their state home carriers, subsidies that we can not compete with. When you're talking about $50 billion over a decade, those are subsidies that the normal airline industry can't compete with. And we're asking for the public to stand behind us, and ask your government officials--it doesn't matter if they have a D or an R behind their names-to stand up for American workers.
The Gulf carriers would not be commercially viable with these flights. They're creating an uneven global playing field. For each flight that they take away, it's not like they're bringing more visitors into this country. There have been studies to show that these flights aren't increasing tourism. They're taking passengers away from U.S. carriers, they're lowering our share of the marketplace, and when they lower our share of the marketplace, globally, it's no stopping them. Because, if they get the green light, this is just the beginning. They're going to add flights, and we're going to have to decrease flights. If we decrease flights, we decrease domestic flights. This is going to harm and hurt the American aviation industry, and we have to stand up and say "NO!" These Middle East carriers are looking at these lucrative U.S. markets. They're operating flights that don't have the passenger growth on them to sustain profitability. These aren't even airlines in my framing, to think of what this is. These are countries in the Gulf, that to advertise, to do business in their country, they're operating these flights just like they're PR firms, not as airlines. Airlines commit to work and compete against each other. Not when you're given $50 billion in subsidies. Not when you're given loans that you don't have to repay. Not when you're given land and buildings that you don't have to pay for. This is absurd. This is not what open skies was meant to be.
We are here today to urge the U.S. government to open formal talks with these governments, and in the meantime, suspend the operation of these flights. The country right now is in political discord. But, that doesn’t matter. What I'm trying to say is, this is not a Republican issue. This is not a Democratic issue. This is an American issue. Please write your Congressmen. Please call the government. Flood the White House. They need to stand behind aviation workers, as we have stood behind this country, as we fight for American jobs and we need them to fight for us.