ACE Belgium Freighters is working with regulators in Belgium and the United States to change its name to Challenge Airlines (BE) S.A.
The new name will put to rest a trademark dispute with U.S.-based Alaska Central Express, and is expected to advance the carrier’s receipt of a foreign air carrier permit from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).
On June 12, ACE Belgium Freighters filed a request with the U.S. DOT to amend and reissue its exemption authority in the company’s new name. Although the DOT granted exemption authority for ACE Belgium Freighters to operate flights between the U.S. and Belgium on May 2, 2019, and “tentatively approved issuance” of its foreign air carrier permit, the DOT “has not yet taken action to issue the permit,” according to the filing.
The permit delay is purportedly linked to a trademark dispute that surfaced shortly after the DOT cleared ACE Belgium to fly between the U.S. and Belgium under the May 2019 exemption. Alaska Central Express, which operates as ACE Air Cargo, complained to regulators in May 2019 that the names were too similar. That same month, ACE Belgium denied infringement, arguing that the operators’ names, aircraft and service areas were sufficiently distinct as to not cause confusion between the carriers, and urged the DOT to move forward with the issuance of its foreign air carrier permit. The DOT could not be immediately reached for comment regarding the status of the carrier’s foreign air carrier permit.
ACE Belgium’s name-change request follows a similar request to the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority, or BCAA, where the carrier is domiciled. BCAA is now in the process of reissuing the carrier’s Air Operator Certificate, according to the filing.
While the name switch from ACE to Challenge does not reflect a major change in ownership, management or operations, it does sync the Belgium-based carrier’s branding with its Israeli affiliate, CAL Cargo Airlines, as well as with parent company Challenge Group, which has a ground-handling subsidiary based in Liege (LGG).
Currently, ACE Belgium’s fleet consists of one 747-400BCF (24227), and a 747-400ERF (35169). In recent weeks, both freighters have been utilized extensively for flights between LGG and destinations in the U.S., including New York (JFK), Houston (IAH) and Atlanta (ATL). The carrier also serves Tel Aviv (TLV) and Wuhan (WUH) from LGG, according to Flightaware.