Getting Off the Ground: My Experience Working in Government Affairs

November 13, 2018 | Shiven Patel, 2018 AAPD Summer Intern

This past summer I worked as an intern with American Airlines in Government Affairs through the AAPD Summer Internship Program. The Government Affairs team at American is basically the lobbying team for the airline; if there was any bill on the Hill that was of any concern to the airline, our team would go lobby in favor of the airline’s position on that bill.

I have loved aviation ever since I can remember. Additionally, I am also in the middle of my second year of law school. So an internship working in Government Affairs for the world’s largest airline was perfect for me. I must say that when I began working for the airline, even as an aviation enthusiast, I didn’t quite understand how much it takes to get one of our airplanes off of the ground. As I started working, I began to realize that complex legal issues can impact day-to-day operations significantly. For example, this summer we had an immigration issue in our office where our federal government had a policy that was separating children from their families at the border. When these children were separated at the border, the government would use American’s airplanes to transport these children. I remember that day very well; everyone in my office was talking about this issue. A decision needed to be made. Our Vice President of Government Affairs had a statement issued that requested the federal government to not use our commercial planes to transport these children. Several airlines followed suit afterward. The following day, President Trump decided to stop this immigration policy. I felt proud to be directly involved with a major issue that was happening in Washington this summer.

Additionally, another legal issue that I had to research was the issue of allowing untrained emotional support animals on our aircraft. As an airline, we understood that there are people who need to have these animals on the aircraft. However, the issue that we were facing was that we’ve had several instances where untrained animals have caused harm to other passengers by biting them. The most important thing to anyone who works in the aviation industry is the safety of our passengers. If allowing untrained animals onboard the aircraft poses a safety risk to our passengers, then it is up to us as an airline to review those policies and find a solution that does not compromise the safety of our passengers.

These are just some of the many legal issues that I have had the opportunity to work on this summer. The experience of working for the airline this summer was a 23-year-old dream that AAPD made come true. I feel like my experience working with American Airlines has helped me to understand that even issues that may seem small or unimportant can affect the entire operation of us transporting thousands of passengers every day. What that taught me was, that as a future attorney, you should always treat any issue, whether it seems big or small, with the utmost of importance — because you never know how that issue will affect your work down the line.


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Shiven Patel is a 2018 AAPD Summer Intern. He interned in the Government Affairs office of American Airlines.

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