British Airways Chief Executive Rod Eddington has called on European nations to join together to break down America’s protectionist aviation policies.
Speaking today at the Institute of Economic Affairs annual conference in London, he said it was the only way Europe could rebalance a one-sided air treaty the USA had pursued and he appealed to the British government to throw its weight behind the cause.
“We will not manage our industry sensibly if we have to continue to live within this Byzantine system,” he said.
“As we move into the 21st century, international aviation needs a regulatory overhaul which sweeps aside the nationalistic and protectionist approach of the past,” he added.
“Now the European Court of Justice* has made its judgement clear, the British government, with its excellent liberalising credentials, should throw its weight behind the drive to negotiate an open and balanced Transatlantic Common Aviation Area.* It should abandon any effort to negotiate a further liberalisation on the flawed US open skies model.
“Over the past decade, US ‘open skies’ agreements have been the main driving force behind the opening up of aviation markets. But these have been one-sided agreements which have greatly favoured the US aviation industry.
“Over the last year the playing field has tilted even further in favour of the US airline industry, as its government has provided massive financial support. We estimate that to date a total of $9 billion has been handed out in cash grants since September 11,” he said.
“In Europe, the US has pursued a ‘divide and rule’ policy, signing agreements with individual European states which give increased access for their airlines to European markets, but only allow reciprocal rights for the airlines based in the partner country.
“What is now needed is for the EU Transport Council to build on that judgement by providing a mandate for the EU to negotiate a much more balanced and liberal aviation agreement with the United States. The way forward is to create a common EU-US aviation area, allowing airlines based within the area much more liberal access, and without restrictions on cross-border ownership,” he said.
The full text of Mr Eddington’s speech is available on British Airways’ website at ba.com