Foreign airlines establish flags of convenience business models to skirt tax, labor and safety regulations to gain an unfair advantage over US airlines and workers. These schemes are threatening our global aviation system and have the potential to destroy thousands of existing jobs and billions of dollars’ worth of our nation’s GDP.

In response to this threat, airline workers have joined together to support Section 530 of the US House Bill H.R. 4—the current iteration of FAA reauthorization—which would help ensure that all carriers have a fair and equal opportunity to compete in the international marketplace.

The threat posed by the flag of convenience business model is not a theory. In the US, we have already seen the damage this model can wreak. In the maritime shipping industry, US companies have lost 23% of the global market share and 87% of jobs since flag of convenience shipping companies became predominant. It is not hard to imagine a similar fate for US pilots, flight attendants and mechanics if this business model successfully grafts itself onto our airline system.

Until recently, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) had effectively protected against this model by making a public interest finding in its foreign air carrier permit proceedings. The current public interest test written by Congress balances 16 different criteria, including air safety, competition among carriers, fair wages and working conditions and consumer concerns. Since 1946, DOT and its predecessor have conducted this test in every application for a foreign air carrier permit with just two exceptions: Norwegian Air International and Norwegian Air UK—the only two flag-of-convenience operators to apply.

The record makes clear that DOT chose not to conduct Congress’s public interest test in these cases because the carriers were unlikely to pass it. They both actually failed the test when they applied for exemption requests early in the proceedings. Section 530 simply clarifies the law to ensure that all foreign carriers have the same process for obtaining a foreign air carrier permit by requiring the public interest test in all foreign air carrier permit proceedings.

Some have argued that this legislation could bring “retaliation” from the European Union (EU). This claim is pure chest thumping. Under our Open Skies agreement, the EU does not have the ability to unilaterally act against US carriers; importantly, US law already provides DOT the discretion to determine if a foreign carrier should be allowed into the US based on the public interest test. The “worry of retaliation” is a shadow phantom; there is no substance behind the claim.

ALPA and others are asking for a level playing field for all global airlines that serve the US. Section 530 would help restore that playing field and allow all airlines to enjoy the benefits of our liberalized international air market.

Tim Canoll is president of the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA). The views expressed here are his own.