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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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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Photos: Go inside Anthony Toth’s Pan Am 747 mockup (Yes, again.)

The first class cabin on Anthony Toth Boeing 747 mockup in a Los Angeles-area warehouse. Photo: Mike Kelley.

The first class cabin on Anthony Toth Boeing 747 mockup in a Los Angeles-area warehouse. Photo: Mike Kelley.

We at L.A. Airspace love Anthony Toth. How can you not embrace a man who built a replica of a Pan Am Boeing 747 inside a Los Angeles-area warehouse.

By now, if you read this space regularly, you know about Toth. He has spent more than $100,000 to recreate the plane he loved to fly as a child. If you’re not familiar with the man and you think I’m crazy, you should read the feature story I wrote about him last year.

Anthony recently teamed up with photographer Mike Kelley, who took some glamour shots of the mock-up. They gave me permission to use this shots, and I think you’ll be impressed. For more details on the shoot, you’ll want to go to Kelley’s website.

 

Clipper Class on Anthony Toth's Pan Am 747 mock up. Photo: Mike Kelley.

Clipper Class on Anthony Toth’s Pan Am 747 mock up. Photo: Mike Kelley.

The upper deck lounge. Photo: Mike Kelley.

The upper deck lounge. Photo: Mike Kelley.

First class passengers watch a movie. Photo: Mike Kelley.

First class passengers watch a movie. Photo: Mike Kelley.

The spiral staircase to the upper deck. Photo: Michael Kelley.

The spiral staircase to the upper deck. Photo: Michael Kelley.

Toth likes to have catered meals on board. Photo: Michael Kelley.

Toth likes to have catered meals on board. Photo: Michael Kelley.

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Why does Four Seasons Hotels now have a Boeing 757? And other links of the past week.

Four Seasons will now have a branded jet on which you can fly around the world. Photo: Four Seasons.

Four Seasons will now have a branded jet on which you can fly around the world. But it will cost a fortune. Photo: Four Seasons.

Hello everyone. I’ve enjoyed these recent stories about aviation, and perhaps you will too. Thanks for reading this blog.

Four Seasons Hotels is getting into the air charter business. “The Toronto-based luxury-hotel chain says the airplane is the hotel industry’s first fully branded private jet,” Bloomberg writes. For $119,000, you can fly around the world with the hotel chain.  Can this possibly work? (And by work, I mean can Four Seasons make money here?)

The Associated Press takes a look at airfield security in light of this week’s report of a stowaway who flew from San Jose to Honolulu. “I don’t think San Jose is different than 80 percent of the airports around the country” in how secure its perimeter is,” Rafi Ron, former head of security at the closely guarded airport in Tel Aviv told AP.

Delta released first quarter earnings on Wednesday, and the earnings beat expectations, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. This happened even though January and February winter storms forced the airline to cancel 17,000 flights.

Hawaiian Airlines just launched flights from Honolulu to Beijing, and the airline is optimistic they will be profitable. Skift interviewed the airline’s CEO about its international expansion strategy.  

Jetblue is offering a coat check service at New York – Kennedy, according to Jaunted. It’s an amusing plan. The idea is to make it easier on New Yorkers traveling to warmer climates, like Forida, where they won’t need a jacket. The travelers can leave their coats at JFK and pick them out on the return. The cost? $2 per day and $10 per week.

The Associated Press seeks to answer a question that has confused many people for weeks. “Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Why are Americans obsessed with it?” Do we blame CNN?

Crankyflier explores why major international airlines are so concerned about the fact that Emirates has been flying between Milan and New York.

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Should airlines be allowed to advertise fares without including taxes and fees?

Should airlines be allowed to advertised fares that do not include taxes and fees? Screengrab: Kayak.

Should airlines be allowed to advertised fares that do not include taxes and fees? Screengrab: Kayak.

Are you familiar with the Transparent Airfares Act of 2014?

The proposed bill in Congress would allow airlines to go back to the practice of advertising their airfares without taxes. So a carrier could advertise a $99 fare online, but then customers would be hit with additional taxes. The actual ticket would cost a good deal more than the advertised price.

I’m no Washington, D.C. insider, so I can’t tell you if the bill, introduced by Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Penn.) has a chance of becoming law. I do know that Airlines 4 America, the trade group for major airlines, including American, Delta, Southwest and United, supports it.

On April 9, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee moved to support the bill.

“We thank Chairman Shuster and Representative DeFazio (D, Ore.) for their leadership in promoting government transparency, protecting customers and holding Washington accountable for the taxes they impose on air travel,” “A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio said a statement after the committee moved the bill.

This would essentially move the industry back to where it was prior to 2012, when the DOT instigated a rule requiring airlines to include all taxes and fees in their advertised fare. The goal then was transparency.

But here’s the airline industry’s argument. It believes it is unfairly taxed, and it argues that current rules hide this fact from the public. The industry gives as an example a $300 airplane ticket. On that ticket, airlines say the consumer pays $61 in federal taxes, or about 20 percent. Because the government has raised the TSA passenger security tax starting in July, that number will soon rise to $63. The airlines also argue that few other industries have similar advertising rules. Other than gas stations, can you name an industry that advertises an all-in-one price?

The airline industry is suggesting that if the public is more aware of these taxes, people might begin to push back against them. Others, however, believe this is part of a ploy among airlines to raise ticket prices. What do you think?

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