In a seminar addressing aviation industry experts from around the world today, the Canadian Airports Council called on the federal government to accelerate pursuit of Open Skies agreementsThis will be with countries around the world and is part of the review underway into Canada’s international air policy.
CAC President and CEO Jim Facette praised the government for reaching liberal agreements with China, India and Portugal in the last two years, along with Open Skies agreements with the U.S. and U.K. But he pointed out that Canada’s current air regimes with most nations remain very restrictive and urged the government to be ambitious in its policy review.
“Most of Canada’s air service agreements currently are far too restrictive,” said Mr. Facette. “While Canada now has two Open Skies agreements, the U.S. has 75. Reticence by other nations to open their markets plays a big role in the problem, but the Canadian government also has held on to its own old fashioned ideas about air policy for far too long. We are hopeful that this is now changing.”
In a detailed presentation, Mr. Facette outlined how Canadian passenger traffic has grown more than 50 per cent since 1991, including non U.S. international traffic growth of more than 120 per cent. Non U.S. cargo traffic growth also has outpaced domestic growth at a rate of more than five per cent a year since 2003.
While continued passenger and cargo growth are forecast over the years to come, Canada’s airports contend that a federal international air policy that for far too long favoured the interests of Canadian carriers over those of communities is responsible for bridled demand from some of Canada’s biggest trading partners and sources of tourists.
Tourism is a $57.5 billion industry in Canada and yet there are restrictive agreements in place with many of the top 10 sources of overseas visitors to Canada - countries like Japan and South Korea. Meanwhile, with several nations, such as Singapore and South Africa, Canada does not even have a bilateral agreement in place.
“World class carriers that are some of the biggest airlines in the world are interested in serving Canada or increasing service to Canada but are unable to under their country’s bilateral with Canada,” said Mr. Facette. “The response they say they get from Canadian negotiators is that their nation is not a priority. We believe this is because the government only asks airlines on bilateral priorities, not airports. This is not in the interests of the communities CAC members serve, and so we are encouraged that Canada’s international air policy is under review.”
Mr. Facette highlighted Japan, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates as some of the priority markets for new air regimes. But he noted that a European Union-wide air deal has the greatest economic potential for Canada. Europe is Canada’s second biggest trading partner and second largest source of tourists after the U.S. Over half of Canada’s overseas tourists hail from Europe. In 2005, this included nearly a million British, 360,000 French and 340,000 Germans.