Big corporate airlines are joining the “resistance.” United, American, and Delta have all refused to transport many illegal aliens who have been detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
United CEO Oscal Munoz said the policy conflicted with the “company’s shared purpose” to “connect people and unite the world.” Delta called the President’s border policies “disheartening” and at odds “with Delta’s core values,” whatever those are. Because most routes are controlled by a few airlines, they can effectively prevent ICE from doing its job. The unions have joined the management, with the Association of Flight Attendants applauding the big airlines’ obstruction.
This is not the first time the airlines have echoed left-wing corporate bromides to subvert Trump’s immigration policies. In 2017, United’s Munoz bashed Trump’s proposed Wall as “damning and damaging” and U.S. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker called Trump’s travel ban “divisive” and contrary to the “values that this company is built upon — those of diversity, inclusiveness and tolerance,” which threatened its business as a “global employer.”
While the Big Three airlines invoke globalism and one-worldism to undermine the President’s immigration policies, they benefit from laws designed to promote American companies.
For example, the Fly America Act requires all federally funded air travel to use U.S. air carriers like American, Delta, and United. Under this policy, the brave men and women of the Department of Homeland Security who enforce our laws are required to fly the very airlines that refuse to help them do their jobs.
Furthermore, the Big Three airlines’ internationalist rhetoric about “uniting the world” and status as a “global employer” evaporates when they invoke populist and economic nationalist rhetoric to weaken Open Skies agreements. These treaties eliminate barriers and regulations for U.S. airlines to fly abroad and foreign carriers to fly into the U.S.
The Partnership for Open and Fair Skies — a coalition of Delta, United, and American, along with the pilots and flight attendants’ unions — has been promoted by conservatives who argue that weakening Open Skies is a “test of this ‘America First’ trade policy” and that it would “be a great step for the president to take to put his ‘America First’ agenda into action.”
While it sounds like red meat MAGA rhetoric, the Partnership is led by Jill Zuckman, a former Obama administration official who is now a partner at the Democratic P.R. Firm SKDKnickerbocker. These people do not invoke America First in good faith.
Even the conservatives who are pushing the Airlines’ agenda with economic nationalist rhetoric are erstwhile global trade advocates. For example, The Washington Times’ Kelly Riddle argued in an op-ed entitled “Putting Americans first” that “if Mr. Trump was serious when he said on the campaign trail the ‘negotiation of great trade deals, is the quickest way to bring our jobs back to our country,’ then his administration should examine and enforce the open skies agreement[s].” However, she had previously cited Trump’s trade policies as evidence he had “abandoned key fiscal conservative issues.”
I’m not writing to argue that all Open Skies agreements are perfect in language or execution. As with any trade deal, we want to ensure there is a level playing field with equal regulations and no subsidies.
However, the Big Three airlines should not benefit from policies designed to help American employers like the Fly America Act and lobby for even more privileges using populist and patriotic rhetoric, while simultaneously undermining our immigration laws and portraying themselves as global companies.
If they want to invoke economic nationalism, then they should start putting America First themselves.