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Flight Attendants Oppose Backdoor Foreign Ownership Deal

Date: February 22, 2007

Virgin America: Like a Pig in Lipstick; Pretty in Pink, but Still a Pig

CHICAGO – United Airlines Flight Attendants, represented by the Association of Flight Attendants -CWA, AFL-CIO (AFA-CWA), are not fooled by corporate special interests' tactics to dress-up foreign ownership through the low cost, ultra-chic Virgin America public relations campaign.  AFA-CWA opposes Virgin America's revised application seeking DOT approval to operate US domestic flights because it would exempt the foreign-owned company from long-standing law set to protect US aviation and set a dangerous standard. 

"Virgin America is like a pig in lipstick -- it may be a prettier pink, but it's still a pig. Foreign ownership is foreign ownership. Granting take-off clearance for this by-product of the Virgin Group will open the door to foreign ownership and control of the US aviation industry," stated MEC United AFA President Greg Davidowitch.  "As far as United Flight Attendants are concerned, that will only happen when pigs fly."

The Bush Administration has moved aggressively for raising limits on foreign ownership of US airlines by side-stepping lawmakers through a Department of Transportation (DOT) rules change over long-standing aviation law.  But last year Flight Attendant concerns over national security and the welfare of the American aviation industry were echoed by Congress in a bi-partisan vote that overwhelmingly opposed foreign ownership and control of US airlines.  Incredibly, the DOT is again considering an application designed to confuse and circumvent current aviation regulations.  If Virgin America is given rights to operate as a US airline, it will set a dangerous precedent for other foreign investors to control our US airlines.

"Certain foreign investors hope that the quirky, but likeable Richard Branson will dazzle and distract regulators, lawmakers and the public just long enough to set a standard with Virgin America that destroys long-standing aviation law," Davidowitch explained.  "But, not all investors will be likeable, or even livable, for our nation."

National security concerns alone have dictated that the basic U.S. aviation infrastructure should not be controlled by foreign interests.  Will foreign interests be as willing to assist as US airlines do today in the event of a national emergency, supporting our troops or responding to natural disasters?  Economic concerns have also been expressed as there is no commitment to our communities when foreign control of an airline is driven purely by short term profit and not viewed as an essential component of the national aviation infrastructure.  This puts at risk the economies of the cities and states not viewed as highly lucrative.  Security and economic issues are identical to the issue of who owns our ports.

"United Airlines Flight Attendants are committed to reminding decision-makers of the important role our aviation system plays in our country's safety and security along with the value of U.S. aviation jobs and the communities we support," Davidowitch stated.  "Pigs don't fly."

More than 46,000 Flight Attendants, including the 17,000 Flight Attendants at United, join together to form AFA, the world's largest Flight Attendant union. AFA is part of the 700,000 member strong Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO. Visit us at www.unitedafa.org.

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