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Archive for the ‘Daily Departures’ Category

Here’s your daily briefing on aviation policy news:

  • In the handsomely redesigned November issue of The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg exposes the uselessness of airport security. He carried tons of forbidden items onto planes and lots of not-forbidden but suspicion-arousing paraphernalia as well. Since much of it seems targeted at making us feel safe, articles like this undermine the entire security apparatus. There’s commentary here and here (at the latter link: “I suppose you could say that a real terrorist about to attempt a hijacking would be smart enough not bring his al Qaeda T-shirt or inflatable Yasir Arafat doll with him; so maybe the TSA was right to overlook those items.”). [The Atlantic]
  • Airlines justified their truckload of new fees as necessary due to the escalating cost of fuel. As prices come down, will the fees go away? Now Congress is getting involved. Side note: Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) says, “Now is not the time for Americans to be priced out of traveling—that is simply unfair to families who want to spend the holidays with their loved ones and it is bad for our economy in need of a boost.” Wouldn’t political pressure to keep fares low be bad for an airline industry in need of a boost? Just sayin’. [Upgrade: Travel Better]
  • Bill Swelbar recognizes the thirtieth anniversary of airline deregulation. Today he focuses on some of the drawbacks of deregulation. “Airlines have a long way to go before they find a sustainable operating model that manages to ‘feed’ various stakeholders. In some circles there are calls for re-regulation. But this ignores the fact that the federal government already heavily regulates this so-called ‘deregulated’ industry, so it is unlikely that further regulation is the answer.” [Swelblog.com]
  • In a rare reverse attributable to a recessionary economy and high energy prices, air passenger traffic continues to fall. [Aero-News.Net]
  • EVENT NOTICE: Tomorrow, National Journal is sponsoring a transportation policy forum here in Washington on the candidates’ positions on the issue. Representatives of both campaigns will be there. You’ll be able to find a report on the event in this space.

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I’m back from my vacation, well-rested and ready to dive back into aviation policy blogging. My flights to and from the West Coast were aboard Virgin America, which, despite the several operational kinks they have to work out, offers an in-flight coach experience equal to or better than anything else in the market. I owe a huge thanks to my guest posters last week, Brett Snyder and Benet Wilson, for their excellent contributions last week. Here’s what I missed in Daily Departures form, in roughly reverse-chronological order:

  • Airline passengers in China “scuffled with police” over mistreatment and “improper manner” of handling by China Southern Airlines. These passengers are taking their “rights” into their own hands. See here for interesting background on Chinese civil dissent. [AFP]
  • Another architect of airline deregulation, Michael Levine, said that reregulation of the industry would impede competition and innovation without controlling the spiraling costs that are hurting the airlines today: “Re-regulation will get us the worst of both worlds. . . . It will not be able to [lower fuel prices and stop the industry downturn] even if it slows it for a while. And trying to do so will simply postpone the inevitable adjustment and is a prescription for waste . . . from inefficient wealth transfers to politically powerful interests at the expense of the traveling public and the economy as a whole.” [ATW Daily News]
  • Can you get to Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean without a passport? Yes, as long as you have a “passport card,” a sort of passport-lite that works for those regions. [Budget Travel]
  • European antitrust rules favor the merger of British Airways and Iberia. [FT]
  • Transportation Security Officers are getting their new, blue uniforms — but Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) says that step alone won’t improve morale at the agency. [Towers and Tarmacs]
  • Congress unanimously passed the FAA safety reform bill I analyzed before my vacation . . . but several congressmen missed the vote due to, ironically, an emergency landing on their Continental flight. [ATW Daily News and Today in the Sky]
  • This is what a leader does: makes a bigger sacrifice himself than that required of those on the team he leads. Plaudits for JetBlue CEO Dave Barger. [Today in the Sky]
  • Virgin Galactic rolled out WhiteKnightTwo, the Rutan-designed aircraft that will serve as the launch vehicle for commercial spacecraft SpaceShipTwo. [SPACE.com via Planenews]
  • Don Brown has a pair of posts looking at the seeming controller shortage in Australia with a criticial eye on the corporatization of that country’s airspace. [Get the Flick]
  • Boeing bets on China’s aerospace industry with its controlling stake in a joint venture with China’s AVIC I. [Aero-News.Net]
  • The Hague ruled that the Netherlands’ “green” travel tax is legal. (That doesn’t keep it from being a stupid idea.) [ATW Daily News]
  • Is Milan’s “woeful” Malpensa airport to blame for problems in Northern Italy’s economy? [FT]
  • It is reported that BAA and the British government invented a jet the does not exist, even on the drawing board, to justify its proposed third runway at Heathrow. [Jetwhine]
  • “I guess I am glad somebody’s futures are going up in value. My airline travel futures, also known as frequent flier miles, seem to get devalued constantly.” [Coyote Blog]

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Happy (con)trails

I’m headed off to the West Coast for a week; in the meantime, a few of the aviation blogosphere’s top writers have graciously agreed to offer some policy perspectives in this space. I hope you enjoy their writing, and I’ll be back with you soon.

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Heathrow, Europe, and more

First, some news about Heathrow and BAA:

  • British Airways would rather see a third runway built at Heathrow than have BAA broken up. Not sure why those are mutually exclusive. [ATW Daily News]
  • Heathrow’s third runway has become a political football: David Cameron and his newly green Tories oppose it; Labour transport minister Ruth Kelly believes growth at Heathrow is necessary. [FT]

Now for a few entries from Europe:

  • The United States and European Union have inked a cooperation agreement for aviation safety. [ATW Daily News]
  • Alitalia, says its chairman, is on its “last chance” to survive, but I’m not sure what that means — this airline has had as many last chances as Richard Nixon. [FT]
  • British Airways would like the United States to lift its restrictions on foreign ownership of airlines. [Today in the Sky]
  • The European Parliament has reached an agreement to include aviation (including overseas airlines) in its emissions trading scheme by 2012. [ATW Daily News]
  • There’s debate over the centralization of European air traffic control in Eurocontrol. [Things with Wings]

Wrapping things up. . . .

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  • Douglas Gawadzinski, one of the apparent problem personnel in the FAA office overseeing Southwest Airlines — and designated FAA fall guy — has “retired,” FAA official said. [Dallas Morning News] See more on this.
  • Benevolent megalomaniac Richard Branson says that airlines should willingly pay taxes on carbon emissions: “If you run a dirty business — an airline business, a shipping business . . . coal business, you should pay for the privilege because you are doing damage.” [AP]
  • China has raised its domestic jet fuel prices, cutting back its extensive subsidies on fuel purchases that have spurred excessive demand and contributed to global oil price increases. [ATW Daily News]
  • Have Delta and Northwest’s pilots unions hammered out contract agreements and a seniority list merger system? [Today in the Sky]
  • The airlines blame the Department of Homeland Security for foisting its exit process — and related costs — onto the industry. [ATW Daily News] See more at Daily Airline Filings.

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Doing something, anything

  • The airline lobby is urging Congress to “do something” about the price of oil — namely, to interfere in commodity futures markets. “If Congress does not act soon, this country will not have a viable airline industry,” says Jim May of the Air Transport Association. Watch out for ill effects if Congress acts on the Caplan Syllogism: “Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, this must be done.” [Today in the Sky]
  • Transportation Security Officers just can’t get no respect. What will change that? New uniforms that make them look more like law enforcement officers, of course! Real airport police: not so thrilled. [Aero-News.Net]
  • Now that capacity increases at Chicago O’Hare International Airport are coming on line, the FAA is lifting flight caps there. [ATW Daily News]
  • Nigeria has received a World Bank grant to update its aviation infrastructure and make it ICAO-compliant. [Aviation Safety Network]

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  • In one of the first signs of the slightly warming relationship of China and Taiwan under new Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou, Beijing and Taipei have reached a bilateral aviation agreement to take effect July 4. Passengers who take one of the newly offered flights will be able to save up to five hours in travel time, as travelers formerly had to transfer through Hong Kong. [ATW Daily News]
  • Jim Manzi asks why Air Force One had to stop at Heathrow during President Bush’s trip to Europe last week, snarling traffic at Europe’s busiest airport. Wasn’t there a military airfield available? [The American Scene]
  • The European Union is investigating Italy’s $465 million “bridging loan” to Alitalia as illegal state aid. [ATW Daily News]
  • Two FAA aircraft inspectors who reported on lapses in safety inspections at Southwest Airlines (see here) have been given the Public Servant Award by the Office of Special Counsel, the federal agency that protects whistleblowers. [OSC via Get the Flick]
  • The Department of Homeland Security is modifying its visa waiver program and photo-ID rules to make it more inconvenient to travel. [The Cranky Flier]

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Here’s the latest in Daily Irregular Departures:

  • Save the cookie redux. Midwest Airlines pilots, concerned about the fate of their airline if minority owner Northwest is forced to divest as part of a merger with Delta, are “contacting members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation to make clear their opposition to a forced sale.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Planenews]
  • The investigation begins. As expected, the Justice Department has asked Delta and Northwest to submit information about their merger, signaling the beginning of its antitrust inquiry. [Today in the Sky]
  • Legal recourse. Air France and its insurers are suing the Toronto airports authority and NavCanada, the national air traffic control provider, over the non-fatal crash of flight 358 at Toronto Pearson International Airport in 2005 as a result of a runway overrun. [Aviation Safety Network]
  • Paying the rent. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) have introduced a bill to beef up oversight of overseas aircraft repair stations. The U.S. union representing FAA safety inspectors was pleased. [Aero-News.Net]
  • Not so “essential”? Essential Air Service subsidies aren’t keeping up with fuel prices, causing some towns to lose their scheduled service. Watch for Congress to pump up the subsidies instead of reform the system. [Aero-News.Net]
  • End of the line. John McCain wants to shut down Amtrak, which is aviation-related vis a vis this post. [Asymmetrical Information]
  • Play nice, says FAA. The FAA has instructed Paine Field, the airport north of Seattle where Boeing’s main assembly plant is located, to negotiate in good faith with Allegiant Air or risk losing its federal Airport Improvement Program funds. Neither the airport nor some surrounding communities want Allegiant. [Aero-News.Net]
  • Finally, a couple items from Daily Airline Filings, not available online but which come through RSS. First, Northwest’s pilots’ union council has filed a request not to grant permission for international route transfers between Northwest and Delta until labor issues are worked out.
  • Second, AirTran, Delta, Northwest, American, United, and US Airways have filed requests to waive minimum slot use requirements, claiming that high fuel prices prevent them from using all their slots at congested Washington National, JFK, Newark, LaGuardia, and Chicago-O’Hare airports. The airlines want to hold on to their slots in anticipation of a better economic road ahead. Virgin America has filed a response which calls their requests “anti-consumer, contrary to precedent, and without merit.”
  • Audible aviation. I’ve recorded a new podcast with Addison Schonland of Innovation Analysis Group, available here.

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AP is reporting that merger talks between United and US Airways have broken down. At least one disaster is now averted.

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