ACE Belgium Freighters (FRH, Liège) has responded to a complaint made against it over the use of the word ACE in its name, as it prepares to launch commercial cargo flights to the United States.

US Department of Transportation (DOT) records show that it filed a response dated May 21 to a letter from Alaska Central Express (KO, Anchorage Ted Stevens), which uses the trademark ACE Air Cargo, objecting to a May 2 DOT show cause order that granted the Belgian start-up exemption authority and, tentatively, a foreign air carrier permit.

In its May 17 letter, the Alaskan carrier informed the DOT it had requested that ACE Belgium cease its plans to operate cargo services to and within the US under the name ACE due to the potential for confusion among customers. It asked the DOT to bring enforcement action against ACE Belgium if the situation could not be resolved amicably.

In its response, ACE Belgium quoted DOT policy section 215, which holds that the DOT may indeed intervene if it believes there is significant potential for public confusion, but added: "Despite the assertions made by Alaska Central, there is no potential for confusion here."

Firstly, it pointed to "significant disparity" in the equipment used by both airlines. ACE Belgium's B747-400(F) can carry cargo that is more than 40 times heavier than the Alaskans' Beech 1900C turboprops can cope with, it said, with a range that is seven times greater.

Secondly, the regions and markets served by the two "differ significantly and do not overlap", ACE Belgium said. Alaska Central does not operate to the continental United States or to any international destinations.

The Belgian start-up, on the other hand, "in addition to its planned all-cargo operation to New York [...] intends to operate regularly scheduled and charter service from its hub in Liège to a number of other international destinations in Europe, America, the Far and Middle East, as well as in Africa. ACE Belgium Freighters does not plan to operate service to Alaska."

Operations are "sufficiently dissimilar so as not to cause public confusion", ACE Belgium concluded, while the only similarity in the trade names is the word ACE. It urged the DOT to move forward with the issuance of its exemption authority and foreign air carrier permit and allow the parties to resolve any issues between them directly.