Air Transport World

Getting a grip on the gripes: complaints about U.S. bilateral rights abuse are common in the Asia/Pacific.(air travel)

Complaints about U.S. bilateral rights abuse are common in the Asia/Pacific. But Washington can't figure out why

According to airlines from the western rim of the Pacific, the best view of the world's bilateral bad guy can be had by looking east. There, over the horizon, lies the source of what Japan Airlines calls "The America Problem."

So prevalent has been the tendency in the Asia/Pacific region to flail what are called U.S. domineering ways that the first official product of the Orient Airlines Assn.'s new Aeropolitical Committee obliquely takes the U.S. to task for stifling economic growth and throttling consumer "choice, service and efficiency in the air." This statement is reported to be a highly watered-down version of the working document that took dead aim at U.S. competitive excesses. Even procompetition Singapore Airlines engages in a form of "America bashing," taking the nation's leaders to task for failing to practice what they preach on competition.

The level of hostility to the U.S. in public fora of the Asia/Pacific airline community seemed to build through most of 1995. Washington officialdom, however, could offer little in the way of explanation for the hostility. Indeed, the most common response was a perplexed shrug.

Well, yes, there is that long-festering dispute with Japan (ATW, 12/95), which has clearly drawn lines and an active and open exchange of ideas that transcends polite disagreement. Most of the public jousting comes from Japan Airlines and United Airlines, with FedEx weighing in behind the scenes.

But aside from that set-piece struggle and a few minor skirmishes, action on the Asia/Pacific bilateral front appears to be more smoke than fire, at least from the eastern Pacific. …

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