The U.S. Airline Industry has a rich history of regulation, deregulation, competition, labor disputes, and solvency problems. Airlines play an irreplaceable role in American society. The industry is responsible for over $1.5 trillion in U.S. economic activity annually, 10 million American jobs, and transportation of 2 million passengers each day. More than 5% of the United States’ gross domestic product is attributable to commercial aviation alone. It is unsurprising, given its impact, that the industry has been subject to a fluctuating regulatory and legislative environment since the first U.S. commercial flight in 1914. What is more interesting, at least to interested observers, is the unique history and interconnection of regulatory changes, competition, legislation, unionization, and bankruptcy in the industry.
This Comment will explore the history of the American airline industry, the related regulatory environment, labor relations, and insolvency challenges. Section II will discuss the current state of airline regulations, labor relations law, and the application of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code (Code). Specifically, it will explain the strategy of using the Code as a means for struggling airlines to gain the upper hand in labor disputes. Next, Section III will address some previously proposed alternatives to the current bankruptcy strategy for resolving difficult collective bargaining issues and ultimately find them lacking. Finally, Section IV will propose a radical new legislative solution for resolving labor disputes without resorting to bankruptcy protection.
Klayton Sweitzer Hiland, Make Airlines Great Again: Why Bankruptcy Went From a Dirty Word to a Strategy, and a Proposal to Bring It Back, 83 J. Air L. & Com. 643 (2018)