Bill proposes lifting restrictions on foreign ownership of U.S. airlines

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A Virginia congressman has introduced a bill that would do away with the prohibition on foreign ownership of a U.S. airline.

The Free to Fly Act, introduced by Rep. Dave Brat (R.-Virginia) on Tuesday, would allow foreign carriers to establish U.S.-based subsidiaries that are incorporated and regulated under U.S. law. Those subsidiaries could then fly domestic U.S. routes.

"Think Wow America or EasyJet U.S.," Jay Kronzer, a legislative assistant to Brat, wrote in an email.

The law would not change the existing prohibition on foreign airlines flying domestic routes.

Repealing the prohibition on foreign air carrier ownership, Brat's office said, would increase competition and consumer choice, create jobs and improve the financial stability of U.S. airlines by giving them more access to capital. 

The law would require that all foreign-owned carriers that obtain a certificate to fly domestic routes hire only American citizens, U.S. nationals or permanent legal residents. Such carriers would be prohibited from hiring temporary visa holders, a provision that Kronzer said would make sure they aren't shipping in cheap labor.

As a nod to national-security concerns, the law would give the president veto power over any Department of Transportation approval of a domestic air transportation certificate for foreign-owned carriers. 

Supporters of the bill include the consumer advocacy groups FlyersRights, Travelers United and the Air Travel Fairness Coalition, according to Brat's office.

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