Thursday, March 20, 2014
As we discussed earlier this month, representatives of the European Union Member States have, in the wake of ICAO's announced timetable for the creation of a global aviation emissions plan, lobbied to effectively exclude foreign carriers from the EU's emissions trading scheme in order to avoid conflict with major trading partners. Members of the European Commission and Parliament, by contrast, have proposed only exempting foreign carriers from responsibility for emissions occurring outside the airspace of EU Member States. A few weeks ago an agreement was announced between members of Parliament and the Council that suggested that a full exemption would be provided, but that agreement still awaits formal approval by the Parliament. Yesterday Parliament's environmental committee voted to reject the compromise, making clear that significant opposition to the full exemption still remains ahead of the crucial April 3 vote.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Air Canada has announced that it will suspend its service to Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela. While Air Canada attributed the decision to the ongoing protests and civil unrest underway in Caracas, Air Canada is one of a number of carriers engaged in an ongoing dispute with the Venezuelan government over their inability to access funds from ticket sales because of the country's currency controls. The problems are related to a bizarre practice of Venezuelan citizens purchasing airline tickets, not for the purpose of actually flying, but because possessing a valid airline ticket enables them to exchange local currency for U.S. dollars at the official exchange rate, which is considerably lower than the unofficial rate. This has led to excessive overbooking of international flights out of Venezuela, though a number of foreign carriers have stopped selling tickets until they can be assured they will be paid for the sales.
Friday, March 14, 2014
According to the Financial Times, some U.K. ministers are pushing to devolve responsibility for the air passenger duty to the Scottish government in attempt to undercut one of the Scottish National Party's arguments for independence. The SNP, which objects to the application of the tax to flights into and out of Scottish regional airports, has proposed reducing the duty by 50 percent should Scotland gain the authority to do so under independence. Northern Ireland was granted similar authority over the administration of the APD to flights in or out of its airports in 2012 and used it to revoke the duty entirely for long-haul flights.
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Last week an administrative law judge overturned a fine that had been levied against an aerial photographer for his operation of an unmanned aerial vehicle in 2011. The judge ruled that existing airspace regulations were not intended to apply to vehicles of this type. While the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 clearly authorizes the FAA to adopt regulations to incorporate small UAVs into the national airspace system, the first of those regulations is not expected until November. Arguably, the FAA lacks legal authority to apply many of the rules written for manned aircraft to the operation of unmanned aircraft, which would mean that until the new rules take effect, commercial UAV use could operate free from regulation. The FAA is appealing the ruling.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Friday, March 7, 2014
As reported by USA Today, the Federal Aviation Administration has decided to grant U.S. carriers' request that the slot usage requirements normally in force at high density east coast airports such as Reagan National in Washington D.C., Kennedy International and LaGuardia in New York, and Liberty International in Newark be waived for cancellations related to the heavy storms of the past few months. Under normal conditions, airlines are at risk of losing their slot rights if they fail to use them at least 80 percent of the time. A pdf of the order, which includes the specific dates covered by the waiver and will be published in next week's Federal Register, is available via the Federal Register here.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
The long and contentious conflict over the application of the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme to foreign carriers appears to be nearing an end as Members of the European Parliament reached an agreement with negotiators from the various Member States to essentially exempt non-EU carriers from any obligation to participate in Europe's cap-and-trade program. Carriers based in EU Member States will still be required to comply. The application of Directive 101/2008 to non-EU airlines has been criticized for its extraterritorial effects since its passage six years ago. Under pressure from Member States fearful of repercussions from trade partners, the EU temporarily suspended its application to non-EU carriers last year, and the European Commission and Parliament had both recently backed a measure to restrict foreign carriers’ obligations to only those pertaining to emissions occurring in EU airspace – thereby addressing the primary legal argument opposing States had put forward. Despite the Parliament's acquiescence to their purported concerns, non-EU countries, perhaps emboldened by their success, continued to press for complete exemption for their carriers which they now appear to have won.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
A potentially significant development is underway in Australia as Prime Minister Tony Abbott revealed plans to abolish both the 49% cap on foreign investment and 35% cap on ownership by foreign airlines currently in place for Qantas' domestic operations. This would presumably require the company to create a bifurcated corporate structure similar to that employed by Virgin Australia, separating control of the domestic and international operations. Foreign ownership restrictions would remain in place for international operations as is necessary to remain compliant with most bilateral air services agreements. The proposal is likely motivated by Qantas' recent financial struggles amidst increasing competition from the expansion of LCCs both within Australia and throughout the Asisa-Pacific market. As of now, the measure's adoption remains uncertain as it is expected to face opposition in the Australian Senate.