Is LAX considering policy to prop up unions? Airlines say yes.

Airlines for America, the trade group representing of the nation’s largest airlines, is threatening legal action against the city of Los Angeles over proposed policy that it contends would give an unfair advantage to unions at LAX.

The issue involves proposed rules for which Certified Service Providers can operate at LAX. This is a fancy term for the third-party outfits that provide ground handling services for many major carriers at LAX, such as Turkish, Korean, China Eastern, Air France and even American Airlines. It’s cheaper for these airlines to hire contracted workers to handle baggage and marshal airplanes than to hire their own employees. A couple of the biggest companies that do this job are Menzies Aviation and Swissport.

The SEIU USWW, a powerful union that backed Mayor Eric Garcetti in the last election, wants to organize these workers. Thus far, it has had little success.

But now, according to the airline group, the city of Los Angeles is considering adopting new language language that would give the SEIU a leg up in this battle. The language would be inserted in the rules that govern which service providers may operate at LAX.

It’s complicated language, but Airlines for America says the tweaks are designed only to help unions.

“The provision would effectively mandate union representation and require bargaining and binding arbitration with un-elected union representatives — all of which is preempted by federal labor statutes,” wrote Elizabeth S. Dougherty, a lawyer for Airlines for America in a letter sent to Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners president Sean Burton.

Here’s the proposed language that Airlines for America does not like. It starts with Section 3.6 — Labor Harmony. From what I understand, there is already a “Labor Harmony” section inserted in the service provider agreement, but it lacks much in the way of teeth.

Proposed LAX Labor Peace Agreement Language

And now here’s a strongly word letter sent on April 25 by Dougherty to Burton. In both this and another letter, lawyers for Airlines for America suggest they might take legal action against the city if the airport commissioners approve the proposed “Labor Harmony” section changes.

Second Airlines for America Letter to Sean Burton, Airport Commission President

Jeff Millman, a spokesman for L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, said this in an email:

“Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) has adopted the Certified Service Provider Program (CSPP), one of the strongest programs of its kind in the country, to ensure that airlines that fly into LAX, workers who work at LAX, and, most importantly, passengers who fly to and through LAX have the safest and best experience possible.  LAWA is currently considering amendments to further strengthen the CSPP.  LAWA shared these draft amendments with its airline partners and invited their feedback.  The airlines responded in writing last week, including with additional comments on Friday, and LAWA staff will consider their feedback carefully before making any recommendation to its governing board.”

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Photos: Go inside the cockpit with a Dubai-based pilot

​Karim Nafatni 2

I’m off today taking a tour of Los Angeles International Airport. So in my absence, I thought you might like to see some pictures taken by airline captain Karim Nafani, of Dubai. Many of you may already be familiar with this work, but perhaps it will be new to some readers.

Nafani gave me permission to use his photographs here. You can see more of his work on his website. 

​Karim Nafatni 1

Karim Nafatni 3

Karim Nafatni 4

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Why did Frontier Airlines change its business model?

Why did Denver-based Frontier Airlines change its business model? Photo: Wikipedia.

Why did Denver-based Frontier Airlines change its business model? Photo: Wikipedia.

As most readers know, Denver-based Frontier Airlines this week took the final step in becoming an ultra low cost airline, similar to Spirit Airlines. That means if you fly Frontier, you’ll pay for drinks and carry-on bags. On the bright side, the airline says its fares will be a lot cheaper than mainstream carriers.

Kirsten Painter of the Denver Post has been covering this story well and conducted an interview last week with Frontier CEO David Siegel. The full interview is up on a Denver Post blog, but I wanted to share some snippets with readers.

On why changing customer behavior could represent more profit for the airline. 

“When soda’s not free, fewer people want it, the less we carry onboard, the less fuel we burn, the more money we spend. So this is about changing customer behavior. If the customer behaves in a way that saves us money, we give them some of that back. They can behave any way that they want to behave, but if it saves us money, we’ll share that with them to give them an incentive to behave differently.”

On one of the reasons for instituting a carry-on bag fee. 

“We want to create a disincentive (for carrying on) but we don’t want it to be punitive or customer-unfriendly. But it’s a balancing act because you really want to change behavior, it’s better for the customer because they save money.”

On the reason the fee for bags gets higher, as the passenger moves physically closer to the gate.

“We don’t have a higher fee at the gate because we want to make more money. We have a higher fee at the gate so we hope we never collect it.”

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Spanish airline Vueling wants a 186-seat A320, which would be tight squeeze

Spanish airline Vueling is interested  in a 186-seat A320. Photo: Wikipedia.

Spanish airline Vueling is interested in a 186-seat A320. Photo: Wikipedia.

Airbus is attempting to certify a 186-seat A320 according to a report last week by Jens Flottau in Aviation Week.

To put this in perspective, as I tweeted recently, Jetblue puts 150 seats on its A320s, which have an all coach configuration, though some seats do have extra legroom. As it now stands, according to Aviation Week, Airbus operators can place no more than 180 seats on the jet.

Keep in mind, the plane isn’t getting any bigger. So if this happens, it’ll be a tight squeeze for passengers on ultra low cost carriers that prefer dense configurations.

Flottau writes that the Spanish airline Vueling is interested in  the 186-seat plane. Vueling is owned by IAG, which is also the parent of British Airways and Iberia. Flottau writes:

According to industry sources, one key element for Airbus to be able to win the Vueling order was the promise to be able to fit 186 seats in the cabin. Airbus has done some significant interior redesign work and has more in the works. Many airlines have either already installed or are in the process of installing slim backrest seats that allow the airlines to reduce pitch and gain space for several more seat rows . Also, as part of the Spaceflex concept, airlines can opt to move the rear lavatories to immediately in front of the rear pressure bulkhead if they accept a smaller galley at the same time. That way, another row of seats can be added.

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Photos: James Cromwell, in a shipping crate, at LAX. But why?

Actor James Cromwell protests at Los Angeles International Airport. Staff Photo by Thomas Cordova.

Actor James Cromwell protests at Los Angeles International Airport. Staff Photo by Thomas Cordova.

Sadly, I could not make it today to watch actor James Cromwell insert himself into a wooden crate at Los Angeles International Airport to produce Air France’s practice of accepting monkeys as cargo. PETA claims Air France is the only major international airline to transport monkeys in the cargo hold.

Luckily, staff photographer Thomas Cordova was there. I’m posted a few of his shots here. For the full 30-photo gallery, check out our main website. 




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