By Heather Caygle
With help from Kevin Robillard
OPEN SEASON ON OPEN SKIES: Congress may not be in town this week but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any transpo drama – the fight over Open Skies has kicked into overdrive. Kevin has more: “What started as a relative skirmish between American airlines and their unions over Norwegian Air International’s application to expand in the United States markets has blossomed to include a battle between the three largest U.S.-based carriers and airlines owned by Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. And it’s unlikely to end anytime soon. ‘The war on Open Skies declared by Delta, United and American airlines poses a huge threat to U.S. consumers, U.S. tourism and U.S. jobs,’ Business Travel Coalition Chairman Kevin Mitchell said at a National Press Club event on Wednesday.
And in the opposing corner: “Former Air Line Pilots Association President Lee Moak now heads the opposing group, Americans for Fair Skies, which is focused on renegotiating the agreements with Qatar and UAE. But Moak insists his group doesn’t oppose Open Skies agreements. ‘We believe in Open Skies, we believe in competition,’ Moak said in a phone interview. But the heavy subsidies going to Emirates, Etihad and other Gulf airlines made fair competition impossible, he said. ‘The airlines are not airlines. They’re instruments of the government.'” Pros get the full scoop: http://politico.pro/1EUxsum
#THISTOWN: And perhaps to show it’s quickly becoming a classic D.C. clash of interest groups, there’s already been over-the-top rhetoric and subsequent outrage. Open Skies advocates pounced on comments made by Delta CEO Richard Anderson on CNN on Monday, when he was asked about the help American carriers received from the federal government in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. ‘It’s a great irony to have the UAE from the Arabian Peninsula talk about that, given the fact that our industry was really shocked by the terrorism of 9/11, which came from terrorists from the Arabian Peninsula,’ Anderson told CNN’s Richard Quest. ‘That caused us to go through a massive restructuring. And in the United States our restructuring process is transparent and there is no government subsidy.’
Cue the response from BTC’s Mitchell: ‘Implying that the Gulf carriers were somehow responsible for the acts of 9/11 is as absurd as saying the U.S. carriers are to blame for allowing their planes to be used on 9/11 as weapons of mass destruction,” Mitchell said in a statement. “To bring up a tragic event from a decade and a half ago shows how desperate some U.S. airlines are to get a leg up on successful competitors and stifle consumer choice.’
BIPARTISAN LOVE ON BUS TOUR: Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Vice President Joe Biden received a warm welcome and glowing introduction from Republican Rep. Mark Sanford when they dropped in at the Port of Charleston on Wednesday. “I feel like I’m not welcoming anybody – these are local folks. Given the former mayor’s experiences there in Charlotte, growing up in this part of the world, and given the vice president’s oftly regular visits to this part of the world, I feel like we’re dealing with locals,” Sanford said when introducing the two.
The Charleston stop is one of three where Biden will join Foxx on the multistate bus tour this week. “America is in the midst of a growth spurt, and her problem is that her roads and her rails and her ports don’t automatically grow as the global economy does, as our population does,” Foxx said.
Time for another Bidenism: The V.P. just couldn’t help himself, finding a way to work in his thoughts on LaGuardia Airport into his port speech: “I’ll end with what some refer to as a ‘Bidenism.’ I had said about a year ago that if I took you to LaGuardia Airport in the greatest city in the world and I blindfolded you at midnight, and I took you into the airport in Beijing and blindfolded you and it was at midnight, and then asked you where were you, you would guess the airport in Beijing was in the United States and you would guess the one that was at LaGuardia was in some other developing country.”
“Well I got criticized for saying that except by everybody who works there,” Biden said, adding that representatives from the airport and labor unions walked up to him as he was preparing to leave LaGuardia on a visit to NYC after his initial comments and “they put their hands out and said thank you, thank you.” “How can the greatest city in the world have such a terrible infrastructure” at its airport, he added.
Next up: The dynamic transpo duo will stop in Foxx’s hometown of Charlotte, N.C., today for Biden’s last visit on the tour.
**Say yes to more U.S. jobs, increased tourism, economic growth, lower airfares and more transatlantic competition. With nearly 300 American flight attendants already working in the U.S., and with a new Boeing fleet, approval of Norwegian Air International will allow Norwegian to continue creating jobs and generating economic growth. OpenOurSkies.com**
LATEST ON WEST VIRGINIA DERAILMENT: Fires at the site of Monday’s crude oil train derailment in West Virginia were still burning Wednesday but more controlled than the day before, according to an update from DOT. FRA’s acting administrator and chief safety officer visited the surrounding area in addition to being briefed by “CSX, U.S. Coast Guard, state and local officials, and first responders.”
What you should read: Displaced families try to adjust as derailment fire burns for third day: http://bit.ly/1Jq0Qzn
LABOR SECRETARY MEETS WITH PORT, UNION GROUPS: Labor Secretary Tom Perez on Wednesday met again with both sides in the West Coast ports standoff. More from Reuters: “Perez joined the talks for the first time on Tuesday, meeting separately with each party, then briefly with both sides together, sources familiar with the situation told Reuters. … The union and the PMA have declined public comment since agreeing last Friday to honor a news blackout requested by a federal mediator who joined the talks last month. … The last time contract talks led to a full shutdown of the West Coast ports was in 2002, when the companies imposed a lockout that was lifted 10 days later under a court order sought by President George W. Bush.” Full story: http://reut.rs/1ATDsVt
-And for a good read on one of the groups behind the dispute, check out this L.A. Times story on the “small but mighty” International Longshore and Warehouse Union: http://lat.ms/1yUNHmF
GOOD NEWS FOR JFK FLYERS: Putting aside Biden’s comments on LaGuardia, there might be another reason to fly into New York’s other famous airport instead – getting in and out of the airport on time. JFK had the biggest improvement in on-time performance of any major U.S. airport in 2014, according to an analysis by Global Gateway Alliance. “Over the past couple of years, JFK has seen the introduction of new, more direct flight routes and airport surface detection equipment, both of which have helped reduce flight delays,” the group wrote, attributing JFK’s improvement to NextGen implementation.
Word of caution: But the group says it isn’t all gumdrops and roses – about 25 percent of all JFK flights still aren’t on time “so there remains significant work to be done.” Capital Pro has the full story with more details on JFK and LGA: http://bit.ly/1vXBrai and read the full analysis here: http://bit.ly/1EolMQI
And the airport with the best on-time performance? Salt Lake City. The Windy City “wins” for worst: Chicago’s two airports, O’Hare and Midway, came in last place and second-to-last for on-time performance.
CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECTS TRANSPO: Wondering what impact climate change has on transportation? The Georgetown Climate Center has examined 100 case studies of how transportation agencies around the country are incorporating climate change concerns into their transportation projects. Examples include the Alaska DOT putting insulation in the roads in some areas, “which may help prevent thawing of underlying permafrost” if temperatures rise in the future, and New Jersey’s electric microgrid that will help power the state’s transit systems during extreme weather. A full roundup of the case studies here: http://bit.ly/1LepIYd
THE AUTOBAHN (SPEED READ):
-Good read: “Special cops work to unravel confusing highway pileups.” USA Today: http://usat.ly/1BoyIbu
-D.C. DOT wants full review of the yet-to-be operational streetcar line after ongoing delays. WAMU: http://bit.ly/1DCRdbf
-Uber wants $1 billion more in latest fundraising blitz. Bloomberg: http://bloom.bg/1A8anoh
-Uber and Lyft are now legal in Virginia. The Washington Post: http://wapo.st/1E6ZgOm
-U.S., Canada reach key agreement on Detroit-Windsor bridge: http://politico.pro/1zPXE52
-“They have no idea what they’re getting into if they get into that.” -Former GM CEO on Apple possibly entering the car industry. Bloomberg: http://bloom.bg/1zOjbLr
-UAE scores highest ICAO safety ranking for aviation. Gulf News: http://bit.ly/1CJUX79
THE COUNTDOWN: Highway and transit policy expires in 101 days. DOT appropriations run out and the FAA reauthorization expires in 223 days. The 2016 presidential election is in 628 days.Tags: policy, transportation