US airlines launch drive for national airline policy

WASHINGTON, Dec 5 (Reuters) - U.S. airline company

executives, complaining that their industry is over-taxed and

over-regulated, on Wednesday called for a national airline

policy to help them shore up profits and jobs.

"Right now, we are subject to what is really a hodge-podge

of ill-thought-out regulations and taxes," said Nick Calio,

president of Airlines for America, flanked by top executives

from US Airways, Southwest and other carriers.

U.S. airlines also suffer from an outdated air traffic

control system, volatile energy prices and increased competition

from foreign carriers for international routes that help pay for

less profitable domestic routes, Calio said.

The U.S. industry lost $55 billion from 2000 to 2010 and shed

150,000 jobs, or one-third of its workforce, according to an

Airlines for America fact sheet.

The airline executives launched their campaign for a

national airline policy at an event on Tuesday evening with

lawmakers, and also met with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

on Wednesday to discuss their concerns.

Calio said that $61 of a $300 round-trip domestic ticket, or

about 20 percent, goes to pay 17 different taxes.

"The people who are flying think we are getting that money

ourselves, and we're not," Calio said.

At the same time, the industry has boosted revenues by

employing computer programs that tweak pricing instantaneously,

added fees for checked bags, on-board food and more spacious

seating, and reduced the number of empty seats by trimming

flights.

The industry plan includes repealing the commercial jet-fuel

tax, reforming costly airline regulations, modernizing air

traffic infrastructure, curbing speculation in the oil futures

market and investing in research and development.

It also proposes a number of reforms to make U.S. airlines

more competitive globally, such as limiting U.S. Export-Import

Bank financing for foreign carriers, reforming U.S. visa

policies to reduce processing times and pushing other countries

to end certain discriminatory practices.

Calio said that after recent talks with lawmakers, he was

optimistic that legislation to create a national airlines policy

would be introduced in Congress. But he declined to say who

would offer the bill or when.

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