Monday, December 6, 2010
Continental Airlines--now part of United--announced that it will appeal a French court judgment ordering the carrier to pay 1 million euro to Air France and a 200,000 euro fine. See Kim Willsher, Continental Airlines to Appeal Against Conviction for Concorde Crash, Guardian, Dec. 6, 2010 (available here). The order comes as part of the French court's judgment that Continental was responsible for the crash of Air France Concorde Flight 4590 in July 2000, which killed 113 people. According to the court, a small strip of titanium which fell off a Continental flight onto the runway punctured one of the Concorde's tires, sending rubber into the fuel tank which eventually caused the aircraft to crash.
Continental's lawyer is characterizing the judgment as a flagrant attempt by "French authorities to shift attention and blame [for the crash] away from Air France, which was government-owned at the time and [which] operated and maintained [the Concorde], as well as from the French authorities responsible for the Concorde's airworthiness and safety." See id.
According to a news report releases yesterday, the United States and Brazil have agreed to a framework agreement which would liberalize their air services trade relations by 2015. See Doug Cameron, US, Brazil Reach Open-Skies [sic] Aviation Pact, Dow Jones Newswire, Dec. 5, 2010 (available here). According to the story, "[t]he proposed deal would start ending restrictions on the number of flights between the countries from next year, with barriers on the busiest routes--notably to and from Sao Paulo's congested airports--coming down from 2013."
Until the text of the agreement is released, it's impossible to tell what other illiberal provisions may still be lurking in the deal. One question which immediately comes to mind is whether the Department of Transportation will view the new agreement as "good enough" for purposes of granting antitrust immunity to potential alliance link-ups between U.S. and Brazilian airlines. Historically, the DOT has insisted on "the existence of an 'open-skies' regulatory framework between the U.S. and foreign carriers' homelands [as] a necessary predicate to [the Department's] consideration of requests for antitrust immunity." See Final Order, at 2, Dkt. No. OST-2008-0234 (Dep't of Transp. July 10, 2009).