Arab carriers have joined forces in calling on the European Commission (EC) to respect state sovereignty and prioritize passenger interests as it looks to repeal and replace legislation on airline fair competition.

The Arab Air Carriers’ Organization (AACO) adopted a resolution at the close of its AGM in Sharjah Nov. 21 that calls on the EC to take into account five principles of unilateral air transport regulations.  These include respecting the sovereignty of other states; not being used as a “pressure tool” to put the interests of one state over another; prioritizing passenger interests; not developing protective measures that promote one party’s competitive position over another; and not becoming a source of disputes with other countries.

The resolution stems from the EC’s proposal to repeal and replace EU regulation 868/2004, which was enacted in 2004 to safeguard fair competition in air transport. The EC wants new legislation that reflects today’s competitive landscape, with far more non-EU airlines operating in the market, and which ensures fair competition across all players regardless of origin.

But Arab carriers are clearly concerned that new EC fair competition rules could tip the balance in favor of European carriers.

“Dialogue, consultations and negotiations are the proper path in air transport relations between states,” AACO said in its resolution summary.  “Arab-EU air transport relations are the foundation for trade and movement between the two neighboring regions.”

Competition in that market place produces lower prices and better service, AACO said.

A second AACO AGM resolution focused on aviation security, noting that civil aviation security was primarily a state responsibility and emphasizing that global security standards were the only means to mitigate threats effectively and efficiently.

There is a “need for consultation and collaboration between states and airlines and airports in devising and implementing security measures,” AACO said.

Arab carriers bore the brunt of so-called “laptop bans” earlier this year, in which the US and UK suddenly, and without consultation, implemented new security rules on inbound flights from certain countries and airports. The rules included a ban on taking onboard any personal electronic devices larger than a smartphone; these had to be checked, even though regulatory authorities such as EASA, FAA, IATA and ICAO warned so many lithium batteries loaded in the aircraft baggage hold posed a fire hazard.

During his address to the AACO AGM this week, IATA regional VP Africa & the Middle East Muhammad Ali Albakri stressed the need for “global solutions” to security threats.

“Governments have access to intelligence, resources and information and they set the rules. But we are in this together,” he said. “Consultation is key and needs to happen as a matter of course, not as an afterthought.”

On Nov. 15, the ICAO Council endorsed the first global aviation security plan to improve international coordination, response, and planning to counter threats to civil aviation passengers, cargo, aircraft and facilities.

The Global Aviation Security Plan (GASeP) provides a roadmap for implementation of globally agreed standards and recommended practices relating to aviation security. It has been welcomed by organizations such as AACO, IATA and the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA).

AAPA director general Andrew Herdman said of GASeP, “Aviation security is a collective global responsibility.  We need to promote closer collaboration amongst governments working together with the industry as trusted partners in the development and implementation of effective aviation security measures.  Good security is all about comprehensive threat assessment and balanced risk management, not the elimination of every conceivable risk.  We should always aim to strike a proper balance between passenger facilitation and necessary aviation security measures.” 

Karen Walker