Airlines for America, Delta Make Best of Breakup

The airline trade group may be losing one of its most prominent members—as well as its $5 million in yearly dues—but both Airlines for America and Delta Airlines appear to be ready for a clean break.

One of the world’s largest airlines is leaving one of the world’s largest airline trade groups, and growing differences are to blame.

Delta Airlines announced this week that it would leave Airlines for America (A4A), a group with which it spends $5 million in yearly membership fees, with changing priorities playing a key role.

Air traffic control privatization is driving the split: The association wants to see the federally controlled function taken on by the private sector. Delta, however, is afraid that such a shift would be too disruptive to processes already in the works.

The airline has also taken some lumps on other issues in recent months, notably a fight over a rise in what it considers unfair competition with the major Middle East-based airlines Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar. The competition between Delta and the airlines was underlined by Delta’s decision this week to drop its service between Atlanta and Dubai, a major hub for the three carriers.

The combination of these two issues, and others, made the membership in A4A untenable, the company said.

“The $5 million that Delta pays in annual dues to A4A can be better used to invest in employees and products to further enhance the Delta experience and to support what we believe is a more efficient way of communicating in Washington on issues that are important to Delta customers and employees,” the company said in a news release.

A4A Takes It Well

A4A didn’t seem too phased about the departure of the world’s largest airline by passenger count. In fact, it told Delta it could leave immediately. On Thursday afternoon, the trade group announced it would let Delta leave the trade group immediately, dropping the standard six-month period members must give before departing the group.

The group emphasized that other members of the group, who offered up statements of support of A4A, would make up for the loss of Delta’s membership fees so that A4A could maintain its current association budget. The members also defended the work of the association’s president and CEO, Nick Calio.

“Increasingly respected on Capitol Hill, A4A has become a strong and effective advocate for our industry, our employees, and our customers,” American Airlines Chairman and CEO Doug Parker, the association’s chairman, said in a news release. “Under Nick Calio’s leadership in recent years, A4A has consistently engaged and worked successfully with our board to identify and challenge issues of most concern to our industry. We will continue to be most effective as an organization with unanimity and alignment on key issues.”

The quick breakup could be the best thing to happen for both parties: The decision to end Delta’s membership immediately saves the company half a year of association dues, the airline noted, while A4A’s Calio explained that ending Delta’s membership immediately “will eliminate any confusion externally on A4A positions on key industry issues.”

(iStock Editorial/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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