It’s a safe bet that many of the well-dressed financiers at the International Society of Air Transport Aircraft Trading (ISTAT) conference are Republicans. And so Nick Calio the head of the U.S. airline industry’s lobbying group, Airlines for America, had a receptive audience for his anti-tax message.
In a keynote address to open this year’s ISTAT show in Phoenix, Calio complained that new government rules forcing airlines to bundle fares, fees and taxes into a single price are a Trojan horse to pile further levies on the overtaxed airline industry.
“Now the government is able to hide the exorbitant taxes and fees in the fare, so the airline gets blamed for it,” he said. “It will make it easier to raise [airline] taxes and fees in the future.” (He did not mention that some fees, such as the universally detested surcharges to check luggage, are imposed by the airlines).
In the Q&A that followed, Calio was asked about the live-wire issue of re-authorizing the Export-Import Bank of the United States, which could hit its lending limit by the end of the month. A battle is underway in the Senate between supporters of the bank – which guarantees loans for billions of dollars worth of Boeing sales to overseas customers – and U.S. airlines, which see the guarantees as an unfair subsidy for foreign competitors. A companion bill expected to be taken up by the House would significantly shackle the bank’s activities.
A4A has filed suit in federal court to block Ex-Im loan guarantees for $3.4 billion worth of Boeing sales to India. But Calio seemed to take pains to separate that action – which centers on A4A’s charge that Ex-Im was exceeding its statutory authority – from the brewing battle in Congress. “We are not lobbying the Ex-Im bank issue on Capitol Hill,” he said. “But I do think candidly that the Ex-Im bank isn’t doing what it is supposed to be.”