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Transatlantic Air Transport: Routes to Liberalization (DRAFT). European Policy Papers #6

Staniland, Martin. (1999) Transatlantic Air Transport: Routes to Liberalization (DRAFT). European Policy Papers #6. [Policy Paper]

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    [Introduction]. The air transport industry, for all its imperfections and peculiarities, represents perhaps the greatest achievement of technology and organization in the twentieth century - an achievement which should inspire admiration comparable to that of Dr Samuel Johnson´s observation about the dog walking on its hind legs - "Sir, it is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all." But commercial air transport is also an intensely paradoxical industry. Cosmopolitan by its very nature and daily operations, and dedicated to increasing opportunities for mobility, this industry is also one that has been notorious for cloaking itself - or being cloaked - in the mantle of nationalism. Air transport was, to no-one´s surprise, the one topic that participants in the original negotiations about the General Agreement on Trade in Services unanimously agreed to exclude from their agenda. The nationalism and protectionism endemic in this industry are, indeed, a serious brake on the globalization that observers have discerned in recent enterprise alliances such as Star and Oneworld. Two examples will illustrate the archaic and cramping character of the regulatory regime currently governing the industry - the so-called "Chicago regime." One is offered by the standard language of international bilateral agreements on aviation (taken in this case from the recent U.S.-France bilateral agreement of June 1998). Article 1 of this agreement prescribes that the names of airlines authorized by their respective governments to fly between the two countries shall be "transmitted... in writing through diplomatic channels." Thus, in order to fly passengers between Paris and New York, Air France (a firm that in 1998 carried 33,169,000 passengers and had an operating revenue of $9,694,981,000) and United Airlines (the leader of an alliance that in 1998 carried 233,936,000 passengers worldwide and had an aggregate operating revenue of $52,948,100,000) have first to be formally designated by "their" governments as authorized to engage in trade. Imagine the reaction if similar requirements were imposed on, say, United Colors of Benetton or McDonalds. A second example is the odd situation that arose in August 1999, when British Airways (BA) announced that it would cease its nonstop service between Pittsburgh and London. BA had operated this service exclusively since 1985 under authority provided by the 1977 "Bermuda II" bilateral agreement between the UK and the US. BA took this decision on purely commercial grounds, (because of its new strategy of concentrating on high-yield business traffic, discussed below): it had reportedly said that it would not oppose adoption of the route by USAirways, which (with control of 86.1 percent of flights at Pittsburgh International Airport) was well placed to run the route profitably and was anxious to add a London service to its existing daily international services (to Frankfurt and Paris) fed by a 72-point hub-and-spoke system centered at Pittsburgh. Despite evidence that the route was viable, the British government transferred the route authority from BA to Virgin Atlantic, to enable the latter to fly vacation travelers between London and Las Vegas. The British government was acting entirely legally in transferring the authority and Virgin Atlantic was, in effect, at the head of the waiting list for new authorities, having lost to BA in a recent contest for transatlantic service. But this decision prevented USAirways from taking over the Pittsburgh-London route and led to great resentment in western Pennsylvania, culminating in the holding of a Congressional hearing (beside the international gates at Pittsburgh International Airport). This episode (which was described by a US DOT official as "a poster child for the evils of Bermuda II") revealed the potential under the current regulatory regime for denial of international service by national governments to cities abroad. Absent surrender of an existing authority by USAirways or another US carrier under the US allotment of such authorities or some kind of special deal, airlines were subsequently prohibited from flying between Pittsburgh and London. The regulatory regime in international aviation is probably unique in that, while other regulatory regimes may restrict or channel demand, this one can actually suppress it. Optimists believe that procedures and decisions of the kind illustrated above are doomed by an irresistible tide of liberalization. They point to the sheer size of (in this case) the EU-US market and to the proliferation of "open skies" agreements to suggest that aviation is about to burst out of its regulatory chrysalis to emerge as an exceptionally beautiful free-trading butterfly. This chapter will examine the character and present structure of this industry and will then explore the actual prospects and routes for liberalization of transatlantic air transport. The discussion is divided into the following sections: Transatlantic air transport: Air transport as an industry; The transatlantic market; The regulatory regime; The regulatory regime and airline strategies; Airline strategies I: market share or shareholder value? Airline strategies II: enterprise alliances Routes to liberalization: Route I: Open skies agreements? Route II: A transatlantic common aviation area? Route III: The General Agreement on Trade in Services? Route IV: Multilaterals or plurilaterals? Conclusions

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    Item Type: Policy Paper
    Uncontrolled Keywords: Air transport industry; "Chicago regime".
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > External relations > EU-US
    EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > regulations/regulatory policies
    EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > transport policy
    EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > economic and financial affairs > business/private economic activity
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Series: Series > University of Pittsburgh, University Center for International Studies, European Union Center of Excellence/European Studies Center > European Policy Paper Series
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 21 Feb 2003
    Page Range: p. 38
    Last Modified: 15 Feb 2011 17:14

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