Monthly Archives: January 2015

FAA PROPOSES HAZMAT PENALTIES AGAINST SEVEN MORE COMPANIES

The FAA recently proposed civil penalties ranging from $54,000 to $91,000 against seven companies for allegedly violating the HMR. In each case, the FAA alleged certain shipments were not accompanied by shipping papers to indicate the hazardous nature of their contents and were improperly marked, labeled or packed.

    • $91,000 against New Chapter, Inc. for allegedly offering a shipment containing a five-gallon metal drum filled with a flammable resin solution to UPS for air transportation to Ohio that was not packaged in accordance with the HMR. Workers at a UPS sort facility discovered that approximately three gallons of the resin had leaked from the drum and subsequently notified the FAA.
    • $81,000 against Q.G. Investments, LLC for allegedly shipping 46 packages of sparklers to United Airlines for air transportation from Orlando to Tanzania, Africa. Sparklers are explosive fireworks, which are forbidden aboard passenger-carrying aircraft. United Airlines’ contract cargo handling company discovered the shipment at Orlando International Airport.
    • $78,000 against Click Bond, Inc. for allegedly offering a nylon bag containing eight packets totaling one ounce of polyester resin adhesive to UPS for air transportation from North Carolina to Ft. Lauderdale. Polyester resin adhesive is a flammable liquid.
    • $66,500 against All Tire Supply Co. for allegedly offering a shipment containing four one-gallon metal cans of paint, which is a flammable liquid, to DHL Worldwide Express for air transportation to Sydney, Australia.
    • $65,000 against Kretek International, Inc. for allegedly offering a shipment containing twelve 10.15-ounce aerosol cans of highly flammable butane gas to UPS for air transportation from California to Florida.
    • $55,000 against Harland Clarke Holdings Corp. for allegedly offering one box containing twelve 11-ounce aerosol cans of silicone, which is a flammable gas, for transportation aboard a UPS cargo flight from Georgia to Puerto Rico. Workers at the UPS sort facility in Jacksonville discovered the package and notified FAA.
    • $54,000 against Quimica Bicentenario de la Ind. for allegedly offering a box containing 500 fireworks to FedEx for air transportation from Mexico to Florida. Workers at a FedEx sort facility in Tennessee discovered and reported the package to FAA.

If you have any questions, please contact Evelyn Sahr (esahr@eckertseamans.com, 202-659-6622) or Drew Derco (dderco@eckertseamans.com, 202-659-6665).

CBP AIMS TO EXPAND PRECLEARANCE PROGRAM IN 2015

CBP’s preclearance program allows for CBP clearance to occur abroad, prior to passengers boarding a direct flight to the United States, and without further CBP processing or security screening upon their arrival to the United States. U.S. preclearance operations began in 1952 at Toronto Pearson International Airport and currently take place at 15 foreign airports in six different countries (Canada, Ireland, UAE, Bermuda, Aruba, Bahamas).

Beginning in 2015, the United States will enter into negotiations in order to expand air preclearance operations to new locations. Foreign airport authorities that are interested in initiating the process to establish preclearance operations at their location have been encouraged to submit letters of interest to CBP.

Any country can apply for membership in the program, so long as it has diplomatic relations with the U.S. and is a party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Statutes of Refugees or the 1967 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. Interested applicants are evaluated based on numerous factors, including the feasibility of the preclearance service the airport intends to provide and the likelihood that the airport will be able to meet the minimum preclearance requirements. While each airport’s preclearance model can be customized to some extent, it must follow a basic structure of operations.

Other factors that are evaluated in CBP’s determination are (i) joint security and economic benefit; (ii) reimbursement for expenses incurred by CBP in establishing and maintaining preclearance services; (iii) signed Memorandum of Cooperation between TSA and relevant foreign Civil Aviation Authority; (iv) at least one U.S. passenger air carrier operating at location; and (v) aviation security screening comparable to TSA standards.

CBP and other proponents laud the program because it allows U.S. and international partners to identify and address threats at the earliest possible point, can be customized to meet the needs of individual airports, improves the overall passenger experience (quicker connections, less hassle upon arrival in U.S., reduced wait times at U.S. airports, etc.), increases safety because aviation security screening during the preclearance process must be maintained at a level comparable with TSA standards, and has the potential to increase capacity and growth of airports both in the U.S. and abroad.

If you have any questions, please contact Evelyn Sahr (esahr@eckertseamans.com, 202-659-6622) or Drew Derco (dderco@eckertseamans.com, 202-659-6665).

U.S. Liberalization of Cuba Air Service

Effective January 16, 2015, U.S. restrictions on travel to Cuba have been substantially liberalized.  Most notably, the President has effectively terminated the OFAC licensing regime that previously governed all air carrier service between the U.S. and Cuba.  As a result, both U.S. and foreign air carriers (to the extent the latter are subject to U.S. jurisdiction) may provide commercial charter service between the U.S. and Cuba without obtaining Cuba-specific authorization from OFAC.

Air Carrier Service to Cuba – OFAC Licensing Requirements Rescinded

OFAC has issued a new general license that authorizes persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction (i.e., U.S. carriers and foreign carriers holding FAA/DOT authority) to provide air carrier services to, from, or within Cuba, in connection with authorized travel, without the need for a specific license from OFAC.  The practical impact of the general license is that U.S. and foreign carriers subject to U.S. jurisdiction will no longer require any Cuba-specific authorizations from OFAC in order to operate revenue service to Cuba.  Carriers must still confirm passengers traveling to Cuba fall within one of the twelve categories of authorized travel (see below) and retain records of each passengers travel for five years.

NOTE: Carriers wishing to provide service must check with DOT, FAA, and DHS to ensure no additional regulatory approvals are required from those agencies.  Furthermore, DOT is in the process of establishing procedures to reestablish scheduled U.S.-Cuba service.

General Licenses Authorizing  Individual Travel

OFAC has issued general licenses within 12 categories of authorized travel that previously required a specific license and prior OFAC approval.  As a result, demand for travel services to Cuba is likely to increase exponentially over the coming year.  The 12 categories of travel include the following:

  1. family visits;
  2. official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations;
  3. journalistic activity;
  4. professional research and professional meetings;
  5. educational activities;
  6. religious activities;
  7. public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions;
  8. support for the Cuban people;
  9. humanitarian projects;
  10. activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes;
  11. exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials;
  12. and certain authorized export transactions.

Note that tourist related travel to Cuba is still prohibited.

Per Diem

The per diem rate previously imposed on authorized travelers will no longer apply, and there is no specific dollar limit on authorized expenses. Authorized travelers will be allowed to engage in transactions ordinarily incident to travel within Cuba, such as payment of living expenses and acquiring goods in Cuba for personal consumption there.

Credit and Debit Cards

Travelers will now be allowed to use U.S. credit and debit cards in Cuba.

Importation of Goods

Authorized U.S. travelers to Cuba will be allowed to import up to $400 worth of goods acquired in Cuba for personal use. This includes no more than $100 of alcohol or tobacco products.

Financial Services

Depository institutions will be permitted to open and maintain correspondent accounts at a financial institution that is a national of Cuba to facilitate the processing of authorized transactions.  U.S. financial institutions will be authorized to enroll merchants and process credit and debit card transactions for travel-related and certain other transactions.

Please contact Evelyn Sahr at 202.659.6622 if you have any questions and do not hesitate to reach out in connection with any charter or scheduled operations you wish to perform to Cuba under the liberalized guidelines.

U.S.-EU JOINT COMMITTEE MEETS TO DISCUSS NAI

DOT recently published minutes from the November 25, 2014 meeting of the U.S.-EU Joint Committee, which met to discuss Norwegian Air International’s (NAI) pending DOT application. During the meeting the European delegation reiterated its belief that the Department’s handling of the application was inconsistent with the “minimum procedural delay requirement in Article 4” of the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement (ATA) and stated that the EU and its Member States reserve the right “to take all possible measures permissible under the ATA.” Predictably, the U.S. delegation did not provide a deadline or estimated date for further action on the application, but assured the Europeans that NAI’s application was actively being considered.

If you have any questions, please contact Evelyn Sahr (esahr@eckertseamans.com, 202-659-6622) or Drew Derco (dderco@eckertseamans.com, 202-659-6665).

IATA PUBLISHES GUIDANCE ON THE CARRIAGE OF LITHIUM ION BATTERIES

Earlier this month IATA published a guide on the carriage of lithium batteries. The first edition guidance material is available for free and provides airline operators with important information to help them safely and securely handle and transport lithium batteries by air.

Lithium batteries power myriad portable electronic devices that are commonly carried aboard aircraft, both in the cabin and as cargo. Common devices carried in the cabin include laptop computers, tablets, and mobile phones, as well as respiratory assistance devices. In the United States, DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) govern the packaging, labeling, and transport of lithium batteries along with all other kinds of hazardous materials.

PHMSA is in the midst of an initiative to amend the HMR to maintain alignment with international standards and has made numerous changes to proper shipping names, hazard classes, packing groups, special provisions, packaging authorizations, air transport quantity limitations, and vessel stowage requirements as noted in its regulations. As part of this program, PHMSA seeks to promote uniformity with numerous international standards, including the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code, the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air, and the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods—Model Regulations. IATA’s recently published guidance conforms with recent changes to the HMR on lithium batteries and is an excellent resource for all those who commonly transport such goods.

A full copy of the guidance is available at: http://www.iata.org/publications/Documents/lithium%20battery-risk-mitigation-guidance-for-operators-1st-ed.pdf

If you have any questions, please contact Evelyn Sahr (esahr@eckertseamans.com, 202-659-6622) or Drew Derco (dderco@eckertseamans.com, 202-659-6665).

DOT PUBLISHES GUIDANCE FOR UPCOMING COLLEGE BOWL SEASON

On December 15, 2014, DOT published the following guidance pertaining to the 2014-2015 college bowl season:

  • Notice to Colleges and Universities Organizing Flights to College Bowl Games and Other Special Events

This particular notice provides guidance to colleges, universities, and similar organizations that may want to arrange charter flights to special events such as bowl games or the NCAA basketball playoffs. DOT seeks through its guidance to assist such organizations in avoiding: (1) unknowingly contracting with airlines that do not have economic authority from the Department and are not subject to FAA oversight; (2) reselling individual seats on charter flights without first complying with DOT Public Charter rules; and (3) using a Public Charter Operator or a charter broker that does not fully comply with DOT and FAA rules.

The relevant guidance is available at: https://cms.dot.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/BowlGameGuidance2014_ORGANIZERS.pdf

  •  Notice to Consumers Purchasing Tickets to Special Events that Include Air Transportation

The Department’s second notice provides guidance to air travelers and other consumers that seek to purchase tickets to special events that are offered as part of a package that also includes air transportation. DOT regulations consider such packages to be “Special Event Tours.”

A Special Event Tour operator that offers a flight together with tickets to a special event must be in physical possession of the tickets being offered as part of the package or have a written contract for them. DOT encourages consumers to get their tickets ahead of time if possible or, alternatively, obtain written confirmation for the ticket at the time of purchase if a travel agent or other tour representative states that a ticket is included. Consumers may be entitled to a full refund if a tour operator does not have physical possession of the tickets or a written contract for the tickets at the time the tickets are sold.

The relevant guidance is available at: https://cms.dot.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/BowlGameGuidance2014_consumers.pdf

If you have any questions, please contact Evelyn Sahr (esahr@eckertseamans.com, 202-659-6622) or Drew Derco (dderco@eckertseamans.com, 202-659-6665).

 

SENATE PASSES BILL TO LIMIT AIRLINE SECURITY FEES

President Obama on December 22, 2014 signed into law H.R. 5462, which caps Transportation Security Administration (TSA)-imposed passenger security fees for US-based round-trip itineraries at $11.20.

Federal airline security fees were increased from $2.50 to $5.60 per one-way trip as part of the Balanced Budget Act of 2013 but TSA has routinely imposed the $5.60 tax for each stopover (a break in travel of more than four hours between two domestic flights) as opposed to the entire trip, which disproportionally hurt customers traveling from remote locations who commonly used more one-way trips to reach their final destination.

The bill, originally sponsored by Rep. Richard Hudson (R-North Carolina), passed both chambers of Congress unanimously and stipulates that “[fees] shall be $5.60 per one-way trip … except that the fee imposed per round trip shall not exceed $11.20.” While the legislation does cap the total cost of each one way trip at $11.20, it makes no mention of nor changes the final destination for collected fees, which under the Balanced Budget Act are directed to the government’s general fund. A4A estimates the new law will eliminate $60 million in potential revenue for the TSA.

If you have any questions, please contact Evelyn Sahr (esahr@eckertseamans.com, 202-659-6622) or Drew Derco (dderco@eckertseamans.com, 202-659-6665).