An argument over Donald Trump on an international flight has prompted intervention by the captain – while on the ground analysts are busy trying to work out what the Trump era will bring for the travel and aviation industries.
The mid-air Trump argument erupted on a United Airlines flight from the US to Mexico (countries soon to be separated by the building of an “impenetrable, physical wall”, according to the controversial US President-elect). A Trump supporter seems to have offended the passenger sitting next to him, leading the pilot to implore passengers to keep the peace, or catch another flight.
The captain’s very reasonable appeal was recorded below:
The flight from San Francisco was heading for the Mexican resort of Puerto Vallarta. According to the person who posted the brief YouTube clip above, a passenger “said something racist to an African-American woman”, which is how the mid-air Trump argument began. The captain’s words of peace brought approval and applause from passengers.
Trump’s influence is already being felt in the travel industry and triggering questions. Examples:
Air New Zealand reportedly turned Trump’s victory into a sales opportunity by linking it with an invitation to visit New Zealand.
US low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines announced a 75%-off sale for Americans wishing to fly to Canada.
Big US airlines, including Delta, American, and United, hope that a Trump presidency will bring a sympathetic ear to their arguments for renegotiation of America’s Open Skies agreements. They want to limit access by Gulf carriers to the US market. The big three US carriers are crying unfair, saying the Gulf airlines are subsidised (which the Gulf airlines deny). The US travel industry backs Open Skies.
US cruise lines and hotel chains are preparing to build business in Cuba. They are concerned lest Trump’s team decides to reverse the decision to lift the longstanding US economic embargo on Cuba.
Marriott International chief executive Arne Sorenson has already written an open letter to Trump. See: One hotel chief writes to another: Dear Donald Trump
Travel and aircraft-manufacturing could be severely damaged by any trade war with China, economists argue. Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on Chinese goods. In the New Yorker, the business, technology and economics writer Adam Davidson said that China “would most likely respond with tariffs of its own, shutting down American imports”. That would be devastating for Boeing, as rapidly expanding Chinese carriers would switch to Airbus.
China already trades more with the European Union than it does with the US, Davidson points out. China is one of America’s most promising areas of growth.
“A trade war would shatter General Motors, all of Hollywood, the music industry, Boeing, and the entire state of Washington, which exports more goods to China than any other,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, US Travel Association president and chief executive Roger Dow issued the following statement: “I congratulate President-elect Trump on behalf of the US travel and tourism community, and am confident that he will be a valuable ally in advancing some of our industry’s key priorities.
“Mr Trump demonstrated throughout his campaign that travel and infrastructure issues have his attention, and we stand ready to advise his administration on achieving his stated aims in these areas.
“We are encouraged that Mr Trump’s extensive business and hospitality background – not to mention that travel accounts for 10% of all US exports and creates jobs in every single congressional district – will make him a ready and receptive ear for our agenda.
“Mr Trump has explicitly highlighted the challenges facing our nation’s airports and our aviation security system on his path to the White House. He has voiced great enthusiasm for modernizing our roads, rails and airports with his promise to invest USD 500 billion in infrastructure reform.”
It’s early days yet. Donald Trump won the election only nine days ago and doesn’t take office until 20 January 2017.
Written by Peter Needham