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Opinion: How President Trump Will Affect Aviation in the USA

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Opinion: How President Trump Will Affect Aviation in the USA

Opinion: How President Trump Will Affect Aviation in the USA
November 09
11:46 2016

Editor’s Note: this post has been updated to reflect the fact that Donald Trump has won the presidential election.

MIAMI — Donald Trump is now the president of the United States. With that, it’s worthy to take a look at how he will impact aviation in the USA.

Trump has focused heavily on airport quality 


Throughout the campaign, Trump’s commentary on aviation, to the extent that there has been any, has been limited to airports. More specifically, Donald Trump has waxed poetic about the abysmal quality of US airports, specifically calling out New York LaGuardia as “third world” and shining a spotlight on the disparity between certain US airports and Middle Eastern mega hubs such as Doha or Dubai.

Those comments probably reached the largest audience during the first presidential debate, and were used by Trump as a lead in to his infrastructure plan, which he claims will generate massive quality  improvements (mind you while simultaneously enacting a massive tax cut).

American airport infrastructure can’t be solved merely with more dollars


Before taking apart the notion of additional funds gaining us better airports, I think it’s important to note that Trump somehow managed to get off the plane at LaGuardia after flying in commercially from the Middle East, which seems like yet another fantasy that he’s concocted.

I’d also note that La Guardia is going to undergo a $4 billion renovation that won’t necessarily solve any airfield challenges, but will improve the terminal experience bigly as Trump would put it.

Setting that aside, the fundamental problem with US airport infrastructure isn’t a lack of funds necessarily. First and foremost, in the United States, we have these things called budgets and financial reality, which are not necessarily features of the United Arab Emirates’ or Qatar’s approach to aviation. Because publicly owned airports are accountable to the public for their budget, the ability to spend, say $2.2 million dollars on a spectacular statue in the center of Charlotte-Douglas airport is relatively limited.

Even beyond budgets themselves, there are two additional factors in the US that prevent us from achieving the same raw airport quality as the Middle East. The first is labor standards, particularly that in the US we’re not willing to import ultra low cost workers from foreign countries and we’re especially not willing to allow them to work in occasionally deplorable working conditions.

In fact, conversely, in the United States, most public works products see their costs inflated by the presence and involvement of labor unions, who inflate the cost of, for example, anything the Port Authority does at JFK, Newark, or LaGuardia.

Without commenting on whether that’s a good or bad thing, these policies and procedures are heavily ingrained at a local level and hard to overturn, even for a Trump. And does anyone really think that a Trump administration is going to set a new standard for governmental transparency and budget discipline? The above applies, with less derision to a President Clinton, whose party in many cases has emboldened the labor unions to inject these additional costs into the system.

For better or worse, we as a country have decided that we want our public works projects to heavily feature the involvement of labor unions, and Trump isn’t going to be able to shake that fact.

The second factor is environmental protection, which adds years and occasionally hundreds of millions of dollars to the planning phase of a new airport project. Then, even if a project meets those standards, it can be scuttled by a variety of environmental acts. It’s not unreasonable to say that the reason that New York’s airport infrastructure sucks is because JFK can’t expand into Jamaica Bay and make LaGuardia expendable. And JFK can’t expand into Jamaica Bay because the Atlantic Ridley sea turtle is endangered (amongst other species).

So, literally, we have set up a system where a turtle and some birds prevent the construction of an economic engine worth billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs in the most important city on Planet Earth. Again without passing judgment, this is something that we have decided as a society and Trump isn’t just going to be able to wave his hands to make that go away.

Trump’s trade policies will be devastating


Where the prospect of Trump goes from misguided about airports to truly catastrophic for US aviation is when you consider his trade policies. Trump’s threats to the global economic system, and specifically against America’s trade deals pose an existential threat to both the airline and aerospace industries in this country.

Starting on the airline side, revoking just one trade agreement such as NAFTA or US-China would cause airline traffic to and from that region to plummet, costing US airlines more jobs than Norwegian Air International or the MEB3 ever have.

Heaven forbid he rips up multiple trade deals—the big 3 legacy carriers would see their profits plummet (eliminating those profit sharing checks currently flowing to airline employees), and even the niche carriers and LCCs would have some exposure. Donald Trump could cost the US airline industry $5 billion in revenue, his trade policies pose that kind of danger.

On the aerospace side, there is obviously the supply chain risk that comes from having a globally integrated supply chain—what happens when Boeing can’t get its 737 parts out of Mexico. Of course for many Trump supporters, that element is a feature, not a bug—they want all of the components manufactured in the United States. Fine. But the trade deals required to do that will also block the United States from selling airplanes to foreign countries.

China is going to hit us with a tariff if Trump gets what he wants, and let me tell you, it’s going to be the best tariff and they are going to win and make Nanjing great again—or something like that.

But seriously, 75%+ of Boeing’s business doesn’t come from the United States. If Trump tears up trade agreements, what exactly does he think will happen when Boeing tries to sell those countries airplanes?

Donald Trump’s policies, if enacted, will cost the US aviation industry tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue – that is the uncertainty that American voters have now injected into their lives.

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About Author

Vinay Bhaskara

Vinay Bhaskara

Senior Business Analyst, Big Airline Enthusiast, Avid Airport Connoisseur, Frequent Flyer, Globetrotter. I Miss Northwest Airlines Every Day. vinay@airwaysmag.com @TheABVinay

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28 Comments

  1. Bill Hough
    Bill Hough November 08, 12:33

    I’d like to read Airways to get away from politics, but since you brought it up, there is more to vote on than aviation, and even if I accept your aviation-related arguments, Trump is the better choice. When I voted Trump it was out of disgust over Hillary’s double standards. I work for a public sector agency and if I had insisted on conducting work-related business on my personal, non-secure email account I would be fired. Based on her record, this woman doesn’t deserve my vote.

  2. Dan Bine
    Dan Bine November 08, 14:39

    Vinay, your Op-Ed covers nothing that is a heavy hitter on aviation, nor should that be a reason ANYONE votes.

    Why not keep your opinions, like me, to yourself (you opened that can of worms) and if you want to spill your personal views, go write for CNN or MSNBC.

    I would like to read Airways free or politics and now will never touch Airways again because of people like you.

    Oh, btw, I’m with Bill Hough on my personal preference.

  3. Eric
    Eric November 08, 14:56

    I completely agree with the gentleman above, stick to reporting what we like aviation and if you want to be a politics commentator seek a job with NBC, CNN and any other PRO HILLARY OUTLET, I VOTED TRUMP, CORRUPT HILLARY CLINTON WOULDN’T HAVE A CHANCE TO EARN MY VOTE AT ALL….NEVER

  4. Vinay Bhaskara
    Vinay Bhaskara Author November 08, 15:06

    Billions of dollars worth of trade-linked airplane sales are not heavy hitters? Thousands of jobs that would be hit by a decline in international air traffic to the United States isn’t a heavy hitter? If your livelihood depends on either of those things then it absolutely makes sense to consider voting against the candidate with those policies.

    Also, I’m not butthurt about anything. LGA sucks, I don’t disagree. But Trump hasn’t presented anything resembling a realistic plan to make LGA or US airports better.

  5. Vinay Bhaskara
    Vinay Bhaskara Author November 08, 15:08

    That’s a reasonable position and I respect that. I would tend to view Trump’s racism and xenophobia as disqualifying, but if you dislike Hillary that strongly then I understand and respect your position.

  6. Vinay Bhaskara
    Vinay Bhaskara Author November 08, 15:09

    My entire post was about aviation. I spent 1,200 words plus talking about how each candidate stacks up on aviation issues.

  7. Phoenix
    Phoenix November 09, 04:31

    Disclosures: It’s almost midnight Pacific time as I type this, with the GOP just reaching 279 Electoral College votes, clinching the presidency for Mr. Trump. I’m also a Canadian, with no dog in this fight, except as your “next door neighbour”, we always hold confidence that you do what’s right not only for yourself, but as the biggest, swankiest house on the block, for your community and the world. You, as a nation, are our largest trading partner, comrade in arms, and influential “big brother”, amongst many other traits.

    To Vinay: as a journalist, you are absolutely right to air your opinions here, and I find no fault in the way you have done so. You rightly focused on aviation and what each candidate will and will not do with respect to the subject at hand and evidence exhaustively researched. I not only find Trump’s attacks on journalists and journalism as a profession misplaced, and unfounded, but outright repugnant. I am equally disappointed the three commenters above chose to, if almost taking cues from their chosen candidate, attack you only on your choice of candidate, and not why you chose the position you did. The repetition of talking points cribbed elsewhere only reinforces my point – it’s as if they skipped reading your article completely and commented based on the byline!

    Now, from your name and avatar I will go out on a limb and conclude you are a visible minority, and in light of racist and discriminatory policies both explicitly said and promoted within the governmental structures of the United States of America, I humbly ask you to re-evaluate your allegiance to the GOP and Republican party. They will not govern to your best interests and I do not feel they deserve your personal support.

    To the three posters above: I hope you are satisfied choosing a racist, misogynist, braggart, deadbeat, proven pathological liar and short-tempered bully as your representative leader. I will surmise that you have weighed the issues at hand and consciously choose those qualities over “e-mail server”, the female gender, and the endless smear campaign the GOP has exercised the past two decades.

    Regardless, your choice will now reflect on the world. No going back.

  8. Bill Hough
    Bill Hough November 09, 12:12

    @Phoenix, your comments are spiteful, disrespectful and inappropriate. I did not attack Vinay or his arguments, I merely pointed out the obvious fact that there is more to this election than aviation and Hillary’s corruption is at the top of the list. I’m old enough to recall the endless drip, drip, drip of Watergate disclosures, thanks to a media who used to do their job. Want to talk about an “endless smear campaign?” Google “Bush = Hitler.”

  9. United 464
    United 464 November 09, 13:02

    Vinay – As someone who has worked in the aviation industry for many years I usually agree with your analysis and perspectives on many issues but you are clearly out of league on this one. Hillary Clinton is the most politically corrupt candidate to every run for office of the presidency. She is currently under investigation by the FBI for her pay to play politics scheme, committed perjury by lying to the FBI, ignored Congressional orders to preserve documents, and her tenure as Secretary of State has been nothing but a disaster. Not to mention all the scandals she’s been involved in going back decades.

    What is racist/xenophobic about wanting to vet people before they come into the country? What is wrong with wanting to put American citizen (of all backgrounds) before illegal immigrants? Why do they get priority? Maybe since you’re now in the political commentary business you can write an article explaining how he is all these things he is clearly not instead of spewing typical liberal talking points without evidence. Clearly you didn’t listen to anything he said during campaign. You should start by reading his Gettysburg address from a few weeks ago.

    Notice how it’s always the liberals that profess they are the most “tolerant” but the reality is, as the comments above demonstrate, they are only tolerant of like-minded viewpoints.

  10. Vinay Bhaskara
    Vinay Bhaskara Author November 09, 14:32

    I have never once said Hillary is all that great (in fact I dislike her to her core – I would have voted for literally any other Republican candidate).

    On the aviation side do you disagree that if Trump blows up our trade agreements, Boeing/aerospace manufacturers and international air travel will be severely hampered? That’s the core of my assessment.

    As far as his Xenophobia/Racism, I’ll point out that he called for a national registry of Muslim Americans, called Mexicans rapists, and was endorsed by the KKK. Setting all of that aside, early in the campaign he called for an end to birthright citizenship, without which I would not be a citizen of the US (my parents were here legally). Even if everything else about Trump were untrue, that alone would have to disqualify him (heaven forbid what if Trump revokes birthright citizenship) for me. Am I being intolerant of someone who thinks that I, a US citizen, should be deported? It’s hard to figure out why.

    I read his Gettysburg address btw, and thought that pieces of it (such as school choice and his tax plan) were good, and pieces of it (such as his trade plans, were bad. And I’m not a liberal…

  11. Philippe
    Philippe November 09, 17:26

    Vinay
    Don’t listen to some of these guys, they just don’t get it like a lot of this country. But keep doing what you’re doing. This article has everything to do about Aviation and how it could hurt us. Hopefully nothing will happen and we will continue to be a strong America.

  12. Bill Hough
    Bill Hough November 09, 17:48

    @Vinay: No point in re-arguing the election but let me refer you to Scott Adams’ blog. He has some interesting perspectives on Trump at his November 4 post at blog.dilbert.com . Scroll to “pacing and leading.” You might not agree, but it is an interesting perspective.

  13. Malcolm
    Malcolm November 09, 19:01

    You people really gotta learn to READ. The article was about how a Trump Presidency would affect the aviation industry, how his trade policies might cause ripples in companies like Boeing, costing them jobs and sales etc etc.

    The author never mentioned anything about Hillary or your voting choices. Its a clean and objective piece on how Politics affects aviation.

  14. Roger
    Roger November 09, 19:23

    Donald Trump is not the president of the United States. He is the president-elect of the United States.

  15. Matteo
    Matteo November 09, 19:48

    Very nice article, I truly enjoyed reading it. We’re all a bit scared, confused, mad, or feeling all sorts of emotions. Me personally, am not of legal age to vote, but I can tell you that pretty much everyone at my highschool was devasted because of the election. Adding the fact that my state (Wisconsin) which has been a blue state but turned blood red on this night dissapoints me. I’m sick of this country, to elect an unexperienced man into the highest position in the country. His plans scare me, the way he talks and acts also cause the same reaction. Airports in america are not the best, but obviously you illuminated why in your article. I’m not hating you, I love your work, and I love your podcast, but I hate this country. So. Dissapointed. In. America.

  16. John
    John November 09, 21:45

    This is a low-quality, tabloid-esque editorial from what is normally an on point publication. While I normally enjoy Mr. Bhaskara’s fact based analysis, this article was filled with far too much color commentary and political elbow jabbing. I would caution the author and his superiors to consider the bipartisan nature of their readership and stick to the analysis that has made them successful in the past. I hope articles of this nature do not become the norm.

  17. Brian H
    Brian H November 09, 22:04

    Vinay, thank you very much for your well-balanced, well-written and thoughtful article. I greatly appreciated your moderation on touchy political topics; you stuck to just the essentials, nothing more and nothing less. Also, thank you for not being a POV-pusher.

    In his victory speech, Donald Trump said “I reach out to you for guidance and your help so that we can work together to unify our great country.” Ask and he shall receive … to this end, we (by ‘we’, I mean you, me, Vinay and all the AvGeeks that read this magazine), bear much responsibility to make our new leader and our lawmakers aware of the intricacies of the commercial air transport/aviation industries. It is of paramount importance to ensure that the most harmful and/or unintended side-effects of negated trade deals or renegotiated ones, are avoided. If the industries that we care so much about are damaged to the point that there is no longer demand to upgrade the La Guardia’s, the Hartsfield-Jackson’s, the Logan’s, the DFW’s, etc., of our great nation, a tragedy will have occurred. In this sense, Vinay’s article provides an invaluable roadmap and template that can be cited when we write to our congress-men and -women, and even Mr. Trump himself. My friends, do you write to your lawmakers?

  18. Vinay Bhaskara
    Vinay Bhaskara Author November 09, 22:22

    Phoenix,

    Thanks for the note. How is Canada feeling a day later about President-Elect Trump?

    To your point about the allegiance to the GOP, I’ll note that the GOP and conservative movement have, up until this point, aligned with my economic beliefs reasonably well. I’m a free-marketer after all. First election in a while where I’m not sure the GOP candidate is clearly superior on that dimension.

  19. Vinay Bhaskara
    Vinay Bhaskara Author November 09, 22:23

    To second this comment, Bill your comments were definitely not a personal attack. I wasn’t being glib when I said I respected your position.

  20. Vinay Bhaskara
    Vinay Bhaskara Author November 09, 22:38

    I’ve been reading Scott Adams since last July, and he certainly appears to have gotten the election a lot more right than the professional pundit class.

    I understand Adams’ theory, my worries come from two buckets

    1) He may still rip up trade deals to signal something to his Rust Belt supporters. He might not (pacing and leading), but unlike his commentary on other factors, his views and comments on trade have been consistent in this direction since the beginning.
    2) As a person with brown skin and a beard, I worry about how Trump (not even him personally) supporters such as the alt-right and KKK might feel emboldened by his rhetoric. I understand Adams’ commentary around strategic ambiguity, but that doesn’t help me much if heaven forbid there’s another terrorist attack in the US and the wrong Trump Supporter from the alt-right or neo-Nazi bent sees me walking down the street or rooting against his team at a sports match.

  21. Vinay Bhaskara
    Vinay Bhaskara Author November 09, 22:41

    Thanks for the kind words Brian. I plan to write a follow up piece along those same lines walking through a roadmap for good aviation policy under the next administration.

  22. Vinay Bhaskara
    Vinay Bhaskara Author November 09, 22:56

    Hi John,

    Do you have a specific rebuttal to the following facts?

    1) If Trump rips up NAFTA it could threaten airplane sales to Mexican airlines since they buy lots of Boeing airplanes.
    2) If Trump rips up US-China free trade it could threaten airplane sales to Chinese airlines since they buy lots of Boeing airplanes.

  23. Phoenix
    Phoenix November 10, 00:14

    Hi Vinay. We’re mostly as shocked, stunned, anxious, and nervous as many Americans. Many of Obama’s hard-fought legislative victories are things we take for granted up here – single-payer universal healthcare, pluralistic multiculturalism, care for the environment, universal rights for LGBTQ including marriage – we’re all disappointed to see these ideas rebuked in such emphatic fashion.

    I’m also not against free markets – they’re essential for the functioning of a prosperous society, but allow me to offer this food for thought: what good comes from excluding any given class of people from contributing to society, economically or otherwise, solely by ancestry or skin color?

    Thanks for the responses.

  24. Phoenix
    Phoenix November 10, 00:31

    Am I as “spiteful, disrespectful and inappropriate” as the President-elect has on record? Get a grip.

    Yes you’re right, there is much more to this election than aviation. Like Trump’s policies (or lack thereof), but hey e-mails Benghazi crooked Huma lock her up, am I right?

    And speaking of Bush, who was the one who wasted thousands of American lives in a foreign campaign that amounted to “cleaning up daddy’s unfinished business”? Tax cuts on the top that only amounted to increased poverty and unemployment, and one of the largest recessions since The Great Depression (remember THAT?)

    So no, I personally don’t compare Bush to Hitler, I only call him “feckless”. Now we all get to welcome Mussolini 2016. And speaking speaking of Hitler, the KKK also declared victory.

  25. Rob Fogarasi
    Rob Fogarasi November 10, 09:25

    Good article, just a couple of comments however, lets say all that happens, yes Mexico and China do buy a lot of airplanes, and they have a lot of Boeing product as does the rest of the world. To maintain these you need parts and the aircraft themselves have a shelf life . These countries are going to NEED Boeing, to maintain their fleets and replace aircraft, so maybe in a twisted way it will benefit the company who could in fact raise prices on a more desired product, regardless of tarriffs. I know what you’re going to say, there are alternatives, but the other manufacturers have a backlog as much as Boeing does, and ultimately it is cheaper to maintain than buy new. Just another view! As far as the birthright issue, I’m an immigrant too, naturalized, been here my entire life, and wouldn’t trade it for anything, if your parents came here legally and you were born here is one thing, if your parents snuck into the country to have you so you can be a citizen is a completely different thing. Europe has been overrun by mass migration of illegals who are causing chaos and putting an undue burden on those who enjoyed a peaceful life there. I, as well, sure would not like that to happen here so yes vetting those who come here as I was and I’m sure you’re parents were is the way to go. People are very quick at throwing labels around like “racist”. I believe Trump is going to protect all races legally living in the US.

  26. Nigel Barker
    Nigel Barker November 12, 01:08

    It’s a fact of life that Boeing uses offsets, i.e. parts manufactured overseas, as incentives in order to sell airplanes to the countries that manufacture those parts. Airbus does exactly the same. If one manufacturer has to pay tariffs on those components, and the other doesn’t, it’s not difficult to figure out which one will end up as the better value proposition.

  27. Kenneth Walker
    Kenneth Walker November 12, 06:13

    Do you remember how the Democrats demonized corporate aviation when Obama took office and imposed a punitive tax on biz-jet owners? This caused over 20,000 layoffs in the business jet manufacturing field in the US. Many corporate flight departments completely closed causing more job losses here. I think your personal feelings for Mr. Trump (some of which are misguided and based on misinformation if not out and out lies) are clouding your judgment on which candidate would be better for aviation. The democrats are no friend of aviation.

  28. Michael Dearing
    Michael Dearing November 14, 20:48

    What is wrong with you posters attacking the author. This is an aviation site and things that may impact aviation greatly, deserve to be covered. Just because someone is concerned about how Trump attends to aviation means nothing about his opponent. If anything, it proves that Trump supporters are more concerned about him than his non supporters. If he truly is as great as some of these posters portend, they wouldn’t need to attack Hilary or anyone who disagrees with Trump.

    It’s a very serious issue. We have the Middle East carriers pushing to gain more foothold in the US and Congress (Republican led) ignoring pleas to do enhanced safety checks, since carriers are squeezing in more seats with no new evacuation tests. The GOP led congress wouldn’t let these out of committee. Could it be the tens of millions that Congress gets from the carriers?

    If you’re not concerned about the state of aviation and could care less about how the new president will address it, fine. Just don’t read anything pertaining to it. And save your comments please. Remember, if he’s as perfect as you say he is, then you don’t need to come to his defense.

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