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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Flying American

A commenter asked about the Fly America Act that requires, with few exceptions, that when traveling abroad on US money, such as an NSF grant, one must use a US-based carrier. This silly protectionist law just supports American airlines with tax-payer dollars and in the end wastes both money and time. Not only should I be able to fly a foreign carrier to other countries I should even be able to fly a foreign carrier between US cities.

As a practical matter the Act is more a nuisance than a serious problem. US carriers have an extensive collection of foreign routes, you can fly most foreign flights via a US-airline codeshare, and in a jam one could launder some grant money to a non-grant account and then use non-grant money to fly the foreign carrier. Not that I ever have, ever would or ever condone taking the last action.

12 comments:

  1. How can you fly a foreign carrier operating between american cities? Foreign carriers don't operate between american cities.

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  2. But they should.

    Unfortunately, you will never lose your job.

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  3. "But they should."

    I agree--let's contract out domestic US airline routes to Saudi Arabia. Then we won't have to worry about security.

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  4. Domestic routes are irrelevant. The real annoyance is that the rule prevents flying on significantly faster, more convenient, and sometimes cheaper foreign routes.

    For example, I regularly fly from Seattle to Frankfurt and there is a non-stop Vancouver-Frankfurt flight on Lufthansa that would save me up to two hours each way. Despite the fact that Lufthansa is a partner with United Airlines, the code-share from Vancouver is only with Air Canada so I can't use it. Similarly, despite British Airways having a code-share arrangement with American Airlines, its non-stop Seattle-London flight is not.

    The expansion of code-share flights has actually made it harder to fly on some good foreign flights. Previously, if there was no US carrier that flew to the foregn location then one could use the carrier even under the ridiculous rules reproduced below. However, since some carriers have implemented code-share flights to many more destinations doing this has become harder.

    Moreover, code-share arrangements have sometimes made the schedules much worse. For example, as soon as United Airlines joined with Lufthansa they cancelled their Seattle-Frankfurt non-stop flights because they could make more money by shuttling people domestically to other locations where Lufthansa already had non-stop flights.

    Use of Foreign-Flag Air Carriers
    (1) Travel to and from the United States. Use of a foreign-flag air carrier is permissible if:
    (a) The airport abroad is the traveler's origin or destination airport, and use of a U.S.-flag air carrier service would extend the time in a travel status by at least 24 hours more than travel by a foreign-flag carrier; or;
    (b) The airport abroad is an interchange point, and use of U.S.-flag air carrier service would require the traveler to wait 6 hours or more to make connections at that point, or would extend the time in a travel status by at least 6 hours more than travel by a foreign-flag air carrier.

    (2) Travel Between Points Outside the United States. Use of a foreign-flag air carrier is permissible if:
    (a) Travel by a foreign-flag air carrier would eliminate two or more aircraft changes en route;
    (b) Travel by a U.S.-flag air carrier would extend the time in a travel status by at least 6 hours more than travel by a foreign-flag carrier; or
    (c) The travel is not part of the trip to and from the United States, and use of a U.S.-flag air carrier would extend the time in a travel status by at least 6 hours more than travel by a foreign-flag carrier.

    (3) Short Distance Travel. For all short distance travel, regardless of origin and destination, use of a foreign-flag air carrier is permissible if the elapsed travel time on a scheduled flight from origin to destination airport by a foreign-flag air carrier is 2 hours or less and service by a U.S.-flag air carrier would double the travel time.

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  5. For what it's worth, the entire NSF grant system is screwy (in fact, maybe most grants are). If you budget 1 student per year for 3 years, but a student starts working with you in the second year of a grant, this means that the first-year student money is lost and your student is without funding for their third year. Same goes for equipment money (which is spent/wasted in the last year so as not to lose it), etc.

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  6. For what it's worth, there are code-share cases where you can fly on the same airplane, and buy the ticket either through a US carrier or through a foreign carrier. Buying the ticket through the foreitn carrier is usually cheaper, presumably to extract money from U.S. government grants that don't let you do that.

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  7. I think land carriors are not covered, so are high-speed trains in Europe ok?

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  8. Unfortunately, you will never lose your job.

    Lance's salary wasn't artificially inflated for many years by protectionist laws or predatory pricing either.

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  9. I agree--let's contract out domestic US airline routes to Saudi Arabia. Then we won't have to worry about security.

    Thank you, Mr. Racist.

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  10. For the record: such laws are not a US specialty. Most countries have similar requirements.

    This yields particularly ludicrous results in Europe, where low-cost carriers like Ryannair are sometimes cheper than regular airlines by a factor of 5.

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  11. Which other countries do you mean? I'm not aware of any such examples, and I'm from Europe.

    The cheap prices of companies like Ryan air are too my knowledge not a consequence of government regulations.

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