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Thu, Dec 30, 2004

Are The Airlines Preparing To Attack BizAv and GA?

By ANN Editor-In-Chief Jim Campbell

On a recent jaunt to DC, I worked the halls of Congress as well as the offices of many of the alphabet associations and government agencies that support the aviation world. It was a fascinating week... with some interesting intel and rumors coming to light.

While the most interesting aero-gossip surrounded the bad blood created by the NTSB's Ellen Engleman-Connors actions in speaking about accidents before the facts were collected (wholly unprofessional and counter-productive says nearly everyone who commented) and the poor relations she has developed with her staff; one other bit of intel asserted itself as a dangerous possibility for our collective future.

It seems that the airline industry is looking for new whipping boys... ways to apportion the blame for their years of poor labor relations, neolithic management programs, pi**-poor planning, escalating fuel costs, and the staggering effect of burdensome security regs. Some VERY knowledgeable folks indicated that a stratagem for the future (which has made itself known here and there already) will see the airline industry increasingly blaming BizAv and GA for the ills being faced by the poor, misunderstood and under-appreciated air carriers.

The modus operandi seems to be to create a public climate in which the airline business will be able to spin off a greater portion of their costs onto the shoulders of those "Fat-Cat" bizjet operators and ever-so-rich GA pilots (concepts already seen in a number of major media outlets). Over a period of time, they'd also like to see GA and BizAv access to some of the nation's busiest airports and services curtailed, if not eliminated altogether.

OK... outside of the fact that various studies have already proven that BizAv and GA are paying their fair share of the bills for their access to the nation's aviation infrastructure, there is also a divide and conquer mentality here that makes no sense at all. I've little doubt that the airline industry sees the growing BizAv industry as a threat to their bottom-line, but the fact is that poor airline service, burdensome security tactics and ridiculous antics like the Christmas massacres at Comair and US Air will drive more people away from the airlines than any effort currently being made by the BizAv world to attract users.

These blame-game tactics are the highest form of idiocy. Aviation needs to band TOGETHER as a collective entity to protect itself and grow in a productive manner. I already know of many GA and BizAv flyers who won't fly Northwest for some of their Anti-Private Aviation antics -- but if want to see a real problem -- just start picking our industry apart, piece and piece, and the airline industry may find itself with a costly and very public reaction that will backfire in some amazing ways.

This is NOT the GA and BizAv industry of old, where it took phenomenal pressure to provoke a reaction... this is a  proactive as well as aggressively reactive industry that knows that it must protect itself at all costs... even from foes who should be on their side to begin with. We lost a lot as a result of 9/11, we're not going to give anything else up without one hell of a fight.

I think this is a serious concern. For those of you who read ATA President James May's dangerously myopic Op-Ed in Wednesday's USA Today, you may have seen one of the latest (but not last) shots to be fired across our bow in an upcoming war that may try to feather the airline's nests at the expense of the rest of the aviation community. May slips in a line that suggests we're not paying our fair share of the costs... "Ensuring that airlines and their customers are not forced to overpay for services used by business jets and others, or to disproportionately fund federal responsibilities such as national defense and security, are matters of simple fairness — not quests for special treatment."

The Op-Ed, an excuse-riddled essay on how the airlines are the victim of misfortunes not of their making, may be the tip of the arrow. The airlines are hurting... and rather than admit that their business model is a mess and that they must adapt or die, finding a popular and misunderstood victim may be a great tactic to keep the heat away from where it belongs... in the boardrooms of the airline industry.

A final message to the airlines -- BizAv and GA want to be your allies -- but if you dare to turn us into the enemy, you may find that you've picked the wrong enemy. Don't force us to prove it.

FMI: www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2004-12-28-oppose_x.htm

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