It’s not very often that we witness two airlines fighting for the right to be the sole users of their carrier’s name. This is however the case at the moment with two airlines on different sides of the Atlantic Ocean now in dispute as to who can use the ‘ACE’ word on their aircraft.
Alaska against Belgium
Better said, it’s a complaint filed by Alaskan carrier, Alaska Central Express (ACE) that’s the root of the problem. They have submitted a complaint to the U.S. Department of Transport (DOT) stating that the they should refuse Brussels-based ACE Belgium Freighters, the right to operate into the USA using the name ACE.
ACE Belgium is a start-up freighter airline which received its Belgian AOC in mid-April and initially plans operations with their single B747-400F from Liege to Tel Aviv. The carrier which is planning to add a second B747F to its fleet in the near future has also applied to the U.S. DOT for rights to operate four weekly flights from Liege to New York (JFK) and a weekly Liege to Atlanta.
ACE Alaska and ACE Belgium would normally have to settle their name dispute among themselves. The U.S. DOT normally does not become involved in such issues. However, if both parties can’t agree, then the DOT would be forced to have the last say in the matter. ACE Alaska is claiming that they have been using the ACE name for the past twenty years and that if ACE Belgium operate into the USA with the same name, then this would lead to confusion.
The above is rather hard to believe considering that Anchorage-based Alaskan Central Express operates a small fleet of Beechcraft 1900C aircraft in passenger and cargo configuration on regional routes within Alaska. Therefore, not really a competitive issue for them or ACE Belgium or a reason why the joint use of the ACE name would cause confusion among customers of either airline.
ACE Belgium reacts
At the moment it does not look as if the two carriers can reach an agreement and the ‘storm in a teacup’ could lead to a real dispute.
The Belgian carrier has reacted so far by stating that according to the DOT’s policy as laid out in their section 215, that the DOT could only intervene if there was in their view a real cause for confusion in the market or among customers. ACE Belgium, probably rightly so, does not see a confusion issue as both carriers operate in totally different market segments and operate completely different types of aircraft. On top of this, ACE Belgium has no intention of initiating services to Alaska. In this respect, ACE Belgium is urging the DOT to grant them their rights for the planned USA operations.
ACE Alaska also tries to block NAC
The Alaskan carrier is also involved in another dispute. This time with Northern Air Cargo’s (NAC) plans to start operations to Saint Paul Island which is situated almost 1,300 kilometers from Anchorage. ACE says NAC would be intruding on their three weekly cargo and mail flights to the island and that the DOT should refuse them rights to operate alongside ACE.
Fact is that NAC operate B737 freighters which have a much higher payload than the approximately 2.7 tons which a Beech 1900C can carry. A good sales point!
The U.S. DOT must be getting somewhat fed up at the moment with ACE’s complaints.
John Mc Donagh