Jones act and airlines

I’ve heard people say the Jones Act also protects the airlines and us passengers by preventing CHINA AIR from flying Chicago to Denver. The effects of this are to complex to analyze here, but one result is that it has driven pilot pay up nicely.

But here is something that doesn’t line up with the marine world. US airliners use foreign built airplanes. Airbus, Bombardier, Embraer, and others. Why are airlines not required to use USA made airplanes for domestic flight?

Come to think of it, foreign built cars and trucks haul good and people inside the USA each day, as well.

Why is the maritime industry different with vessels? Would there be a benefit to mirroring other industries?

Most here work on the operation side of the marine industry, not on the ship-building side. Perhaps having more options and potentially more vessels available (lower price) would create more and better jobs for mariners?


It’s a different law then the Jones act. The cabotage effect is pretty much the same. No build requirements other then FAA safety regs though.

It’s extremely difficult to get a type certificate from the FAA for large commercial aircraft. The amount of engineering and QC that go into commercial airliners is worlds apart from the marine industry.

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The US exports 'planes. A Boeing and an Airbus are pretty similar on spec. and price.

Ive read a Jones Act tanker is 3x price of a Korean one.

Doesn’t ALL aircrafts have to meet the same standard and be certified by FAA before they can fly in American skies? Without FAA certification there is a limited market for large airliners.
IOW; FAA certification is the “Gold Standard” for aircrafts.

““The (Korean) government has lavished huge subsidies on the shipbuilding industry because it was called the best in the world. It even provided export financing to global shipping companies on the pretext of helping the domestic shipbuilding industry win more orders.”

Trying to compare airline business to shipping is pointless. If the maritime business in the US had the same level of government support as airlines and aircraft builders (only one left really since Boeing bought all the domestic competition for large aircraft) we might have a healthy merchant marine and shipyards.

The money to develop airliners in the US is chump change left over from defense contracts and provide what amounts to subsidies for Boeing and other aerospace companies. If MARAD or the CG imposed the same standards of construction, support, financial strength, and accountability on FoC ships as the FAA requirements for an airline to access American markets our ports would be empty tomorrow.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is just a “golden” … the whole world is a market for large airliners that are not built in the US or certificated by the FAA. Even Russia certificates large airliners that are in use all over the world.

Not many Norwegian built airliners flying around though.


And ships are built to class…so what’s the point? The USCG, like the FAA has all kinds of standards that must be met design/construction wise. Though not as expensive and as much paperwork as building planes, I think ship building and airplane building have more in common than not.

The US Government does the same backing via Export-Import Bank ( Many think this agency exists to help the little man export his goods to foreign lands, but a big user of it is Boeing.

I don’t see how this is a pointless comparison. The airline business is today, what the shipping business was 50-100 years ago. Does this mean in 50-100 years, our airline and airplane making business is going to be gutted in the USA?

Looks like it…

The unintended consequence of the Jones Act was the near total demise of the US Merchant Fleet.

The unintended consequence of globalization is a truly global market. At 2/3rds the price of either Airbus or Boeing they will dominate the regional airlines around the world.

It looks like you are right

You are also right on the other point; It appears that FAA may have lost their "Gold standard"position:

Please tell us how the Jones Act killed the US “merchant fleet.”

The first cabotage laws restricting trade between US ports was made law in 1789. So when did the process of demise begin in your version of reality?

The revised act, the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, reversed the decline of the US merchant marine and contributed to the huge increase in American flag deep sea ships that helped win WW2.

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Where are Lykes, Farrells, Moore Mccormack - the US flag ships that you would see around the world in the 70’s?

Farrells are reduced to a PTCC operation serving the US military.

I believe the comment was that the FAA has strict requirements for ANY commercial aircraft entering the US, even ones not built in the US or to FAA standards. That is absolutely not comparable to the bullshit that is classification societies.

The same can be said for the British fleet, once the largest in the world. How many of the old and proud British shipping lines that “ruled the seas” for a good part of the last century is still in existence and active?
P&O and Cunard are now part of the Carnival Group from Miami, USA.

What happened to British India, Blue Funnel, Ben Lines etc.? They failed to modernize and change with the times, as did the proud US Shipping lines you mentioned. They do not have the Jones Act to blame it on either.

I can’t speak to the nitty gritty, but I know the FAA accepts other airworthy certs besides its own. Light sport aircraft built under ASTM standards qualify.

Would US mariners have more vessels flagged US with USA officers working on them if foreign built vessels could work within our borders? Again, delta, US air, etc fly Airbus planes.

Maybe, I know there’s a good amount of foreign trucks, busses, and subway cars roaming our country.

Edit: in addition to a good showing of US built brands.


If any American company really wanted to start shipping freight between American ports with a large ship crewed by Americans they would have done it a long time ago. The fact that the only reason the few ships that do exist in the Jones Act trade exist is because of the Jones Act.

The AJACs want to dump the Act so they can use cheap foreign labor and ships that already carry virtually all of our inbound freight to be able to pick up cargo at the first American offload port and carry it to the next. That way they get the cream and would probably put truckers and railroads as well as line haul tugs out of business.

I don’t think removing the American build requirement would do anything to help the American merchant marine. It would just put a few shipyards out of business. Doing away with the entire Act will turn the US into the maritime equivalent of Mexico.

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I agree 100% you also missed British & Commonwealth, the amalgam of Clan Line and Union Castle.

Marshall Meek, the naval arciteect for Blue Fu summed it all up in There Go The Ships, It summarises the woes of the shipyards and the failure of the owners to let the likes of OCL and ACL make their own commercial decisions.

Americans are major owners of foreign flag ships, among the top 5 shipowning nationalities. Shipowners, a great many of whom are US based Americans, operate foreign built ships under foreign flags, with foreign crews that conduct trade with the US.

These American shipowners could, if they wished to, reflag their foreign built ships under the US flag and hire American officers and crew. Nothing prevents that, certainly not the Jones Act.

American shipowners invented “flags of convenience” decades ago to avoid US taxes, and US safety regulations. Initially, they employed a lot of American officers, however, Americans were eventually replaced by very low wage foreign officers.

Investment capital flows to the least regulated, lowest cost, and highest profit opportunities. As long as Americans are allowed to own and operate ships under lower cost flags of convenience, they will do so.


There was a time (my time) when you could recognize which nationality and even which company a ship belonged to by their distinctive style.
Not any more as they are nearly all built to standard design and minimum requirements.