Open Sky agreements: A reminder from ICTP President on US and EU aviation deregulation
A letter signed by ICTP President Geoffrey Lipman was added to the US docket and sent to the Honorable John F. Kerry, Secretary of State; the Honorable Anthony Foxx, Secretary of Transportation; and the Honorable Penny S. Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce.
The ICTP President wrote in his remarks:
“I didn’t want to write this article, on the lessons of history… but the constant stream of studies, claims and counter claims on the question of airline subsidies and open skies has finally got to me.
“I may just be one of the few people left in the industry who was actively engaged in the US and EU deregulation and open skies strategy. And a little bit of historical perspective might just show how hypocritical and self-serving the US Carrier and Union initiatives are.
“I was Head of Government Affairs at IATA in those days when the US government and its airlines embarked on their open skies strategy in the late 1970s– using every diplomatic and commercial avenue to mount a crusade on what they called the protectionist Bermuda based bilateral&the cartelistic IATA tariff systems.
“At first the aviation community lined up against them – and we were in the front row of the battle – arguing the case for ‘progressive change,’ moderation, the comity of nations and the agreements they had painstakingly negotiated for 3 decades. We debated in national and international regulatory fora and public conferences, we hired K street lawyers and consultants. We argued that the US had a huge protected domestic market base, chapter 11 and restrictive ownership shelters that gave it a competitive advantage. We pointed out that airlines of smaller states wouldn’t be capable of competing. We fought the legal attacks point by point.
“But slowly we lost the battle as the US put more and more bilateral pressure and concessions into play. As they argued the open skies case for passengers and for communities. As they extolled the trade benefits. As they picked up strategic partners in Singapore, Amsterdam, Tel Aviv, Amman and London or picked off weak sisters with deals or political pressures.
“And they were smart – after 10 years the EU started to move in the same direction – and its de Kroo Commission (on which I served, as President of WTTC), called for a clear target based strategy to open market entry, price and capacity in the same direction. Competition, regardless of flag, became the order of the day and open skies the dominant regulatory regime.
“But most important was the fact that it became obvious that the US were right to push vigorously for more competition because customers like low fares, more choice of services and what they called more ‘price/quality options.’ And airlines need that push to force them out of cozy oligopolies. But above all the world community with its many socio-economic challenges needs a strong and expanding Travelism (Travel&Tourism) system to boost trade, jobs and investment flows.
“Then the international competitors got wise, took advantage of their new freedoms and began to create alliances, hubs and improved products. They accepted the challenges of open skies - often because they had no alternatives - and in some cases like the UAE, nation states began to capitalize on their global position in international aviation passenger flows and the global economic pivot to Asia. They invested in their airlines and airports. Their carriers bought the most modern aircraft with the lowest pollution levels. And above all they delivered the best service in the skies and on the ground as a core product.
“The US carriers with their massive, commoditized, totally protected domestic market generally failed to respond adequately to the changing competitive international service and quality dynamics. Inflight and on the ground they did not meet the strategic investment, product and human resource innovations of foreign competitors.
“So now, the champions of open competition and the choice of the market turned 180 degrees and launched their protectionist legal barrage. And careless of passenger, destination or societal interest they want the rules of the game changed again. Because the competitive heat in the kitchen they designed, built and pushed around the globe just got too hot to handle.
“A read of the claims and responses makes it very clear that open skies is a better bet for the world community and for passengers, as well as the US economy – and the country that has successfully sold this now globally recognized concept to the world is faced with two choices – be bold and stay with your vision or be weak - because some of your airlines don’t like the consequences - and sink into the abyss of protectionism.
“This is no real choice - in fact if the US wants to maintain its aviation leadership role, it should take a serious look at further liberalizing its ownership and control provisions, as well as its protected massive domestic base to bring more foreign investment and innovation, to boost its aviation, tourism and trade marketplace.
“And if it really wants to be a strategic leader in a world where green growth will become the new norm - because we need growth for inclusive socio-economics and green to fight the existential threat of climate change. It should look at innovative regulatory frameworks that create better market opportunity for those carriers, domestic or international, who operate with the lowest carbon footprint.”
Professor Geoffrey Lipman was Head of Government Affairs at IATA (International Airline Transport Association); he was the first President of WTTC (World Travel and Tourism Council); he served as Assistant Secretary General, UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization); and he is currently President of the Hawaii, Brussels, Bali and Seychelles-based International Coalition of Tourism Partners (ICTP).
ICTP is a grassroots travel and tourism coalition of global destinations committed to quality service and green growth. ICTP engages communities and their stakeholders to share quality and green opportunities including tools and resources, access to funding, education, and marketing support. The coalition advocates sustainable aviation growth, streamlined travel formalities, fair coherent taxation, and investments for jobs. ICTP supports the UN Millennium Development Goals, the UN World Tourism Organization's Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, and a range of programs that underpin them. For more information go to www.ictp.travel or contact href="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org
Council members include Brand USA, the Seychelles Tourism Board, Reunion Island Tourism, Rwanda Tourism Development Board, and Johannesburg Tourism. ICTP has more than 90 destination members around the globe.
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