Photo by Joe Ravi. License CC-BY-SA 3.0

A Conversation With Paul V. Mifsud


This message is based on Professor Havel's introductory remarks at the interview of Mr. Mifsud​

​Hello. My name is Brian Havel, and I’m Director of the International Aviation Law Institute at DePaul University College of Law here in downtown Chicago. This is the eighth installment in our oral history series, “Conversations with Aviation Leaders,” which explores the origins, history, record, and future direction of U.S. domestic airline deregulation and international airline liberalization as told through the voices and memories of those who participated in those events.

Our format today, as it has been in all previous sessions, will be three one-hour sessions, and we will be paying special attention today to the aeropolitical relationship between the United States and its very first Open Skies treaty partner, the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Today’s interviewee, Paul Vladimier Mifsud, former KLM Vice President for Government and Legal Affairs in the United States, will also travel back to the period before the arrival of a formal U.S. open skies policy in the early 1990s and tell us about the first stirrings of an international air transport liberalization regime during the preceding decade or more.

It is fitting, indeed, Paul, that we meet you at the end of 2015, the year in which you were awarded the L. Welch Pogue Honor for Lifetime Achievement in Aviation, in recognition of your important contribution to international aviation policy and cooperation.

As I indicated, for most of your career, from 1994 to 2010, you were Vice President, Government and Legal Affairs for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines in Washington, D.C., and General Counsel, U.S.A. for KLM from 1976 to 1994. In those capacities, as the Pogue committee recognized, you were on the front lines of major strategic developments that led ultimately to the current major branded global airline alliances. You were involved in negotiations that included an attempt by American Airlines to form a North Atlantic alliance with KLM, something I didn’t know about until I was researching your biography.

You were also involved in the famous KLM-Northwest alliance, which was the first to be awarded antitrust immunity, and I suspect that you were very much involved in the idea of inventing antitrust immunity for alliances. And that certainly was the episode that created the idea. You were involved in the KLM-Air France merger, the metal-neutral joint venture, using a technical term that we’ll talk about, among Delta, Air France, and KLM.

Your career goes back further, to working with British Airways in New York, after its formation from a merger between British Overseas Airways Corporation and British European Airways – very nostalgic names for aviation buffs. And you helped gain approval of supersonic Concorde flights into the United States…and I understand the Concorde’s coming back. Is that true? There’s a great new book about the Concorde that’s just appeared, a biography of the Concorde. You were a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia, a law graduate from Rutgers University, an SEC trial attorney, founder of the Mifnet international aviation forum, the Federal Bar Association’s Transportation Lawyer of the Year, and the Queen of the Netherlands bestowed on you the Order Oranj-Nassau for your efforts leading to the first Open Skies agreement with antitrust immunity for KLM-Northwest.

Despite the resonant sound of your last name, you are not Dutch, but American, and originally from various backgrounds, including Maltese. But obviously you are much-honored and respected in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Welcome, Paul.​​​

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3