UK Secretary Urges US Forward on Air Agreement

UK Secretary of State for Transport Geoff Hoon urged President Barack Obama's administration to commit to completing a Stage 2 open skies agreement by June 2010. Speaking at the International Aviation Club, Hoon said the existing national regulatory regimes allow authorities to impose "tough requirements" on airlines in safety, security, labor rights and other areas and that these safeguards mean there is "simply no prospect of aviation descending into chaos if international investment is opened up."

The following day, Canada and the EU signed an open skies agreement which reportedly will replace bilateral agreements and ease restrictions on flights between Canada and the 27 European Union nations.

Reenforcing the EU's position to unify more of the decisions affecting aviation, the EU Commission adopted a proposal for a directive on aviation security charges on May 11th. “Significant steps have been taken to ensure the protection of the public traveling by air,” said Antonio Tajani, European Commission vice president in charge of transport. “This has increased security costs for passengers. We need to take steps to ensure the most cost-effective provision of security services.”

At present, noted the announcement, recovery of aviation security costs is regulated at a national level. However, information on these costs can be inadequate and airlines are not systematically consulted at all EU airports. A recent EU report concluded non-discriminatory and strictly cost-related security charges are essential to ensure fair and undistorted competition between airlines and between airports.

Though unrelated on the surface, the decision on the security charges signals a policy position the EU Commission has held with regard to unifying the approach to aviation regulation.

Canada has plans to raise the foreign ownership limit from 25% of an airline's voting stock to 49%.

Air Transport World reported Hoon told his US audience the existing national regulatory regimes allow authorities to impose "tough requirements" on airlines in safety, security, labor rights and other areas and that these safeguards mean there is "simply no prospect of aviation descending into chaos if international investment is opened up."

Hoon noted the EU and US have negotiated an agreement on aviation safety allowing FAA and EASA to recognize each other's work, but that agreement is stalled as a result of action in the US House of Representatives. Speaking post-event, Air Transport World quoted Hoon saying, "I would hope that Congress might think again."

Observing that historically the US led the world in liberalizing air transport, Hoon encouraged the US government to reassert that leadership on these issues and also on the environment, where an agreement is needed between the EU and US "on a clear approach to climate change in aviation, involving new fuel efficiency standards and meaningful global emissions goals."

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