US Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has renewed calls for Congress to scrutinize “flag of convenience” business models that allow carriers to operate out of countries with less-expensive labor markets than their home countries.

“We have to look at the future of the industry. I don’t want the airline industry to become the cruise line industry. There aren’t any American cruise lines and there is basically no American maritime left either,” DeFazio said Feb. 8 at a meeting of the Aero Club of Washington.

“We see this model coming out of Europe, which is, ‘Let’s go to a country with more permissive labor standards, i.e., Ireland,’ or ‘Let’s operate contract crews out of Asia,’” DeFazio said. “What does this mean for the future of our civilian reserve air fleet? We have to ensure the future of a robust American aviation industry and make sure we’re doing it in a way that protects American jobs.”

The House Transportation Committee had included a provision in its draft FAA reauthorization bill that would have banned the flag of convenience model, but it didn’t make it into the final version of the bill following opposition from the Senate and a broad coalition of aviation stakeholders, including IATA.

The groups argued at the time that such a provision—which they said was intended to target Scandinavian LCC Norwegian—was an anti-competitive and protectionist measure that would undermine the basis for the Open Skies agreements that underpin the global aviation system.

DeFazio also weighed in on the debate over whether to raise the $4.50 per-passenger flight segment cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC), saying he supports raising the cap as part of a push to modernize US airport infrastructure.

“I’ve been told that we have such an elasticity in air travel that one or two dollars in PFC means people aren’t going to fly anymore,” DeFazio said, adding that he believes the argument has been debunked by airlines’ recent moves to lift baggage fees. “Thanks, but I just don’t buy the economics behind that,” he said.

“I believe that the American people would like to have a better airport experience. They don’t want to be crowded at the gate, they don’t want to be sitting on the tarmac waiting for a gate, they don’t want to be in a security line that’s gerrymandered around because the airport wasn’t designed with that in mind before 9/11,” he said.

DeFazio also expressed concern about the proliferation of recreational drones, saying a small quadcopter would be “way worse than the impact of a large bird” were it to get sucked into a jet engine.

“This is really serious when these things are flying around, and it could kill the commercial drone industry if a drone is being operated as a toy and it takes out a plane,” he said. “We’ve got to get a handle on those who are operating improperly and then we also have to facilitate the growth of the industry itself, because the benefits are potentially phenomenal for the user of commercial drones.”

Ben Goldstein, Ben.Goldstein@aviationweek.com