Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Bloomberg is reporting that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has advised the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that it does not believe it is feasible to make black box recorders or other cockpit electronics impervious to pilot tampering. The FAA's primary concern, according to the report, is that pilots need to retain the ability to turn off certain electronic components in the event of a fire or other electronics malfunction. The issue of pilot misconduct has received increased attention following the disappearance of Malaysia Air Flight 370 and the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525.
Monday, June 8, 2015
The Portuguese government appears to be proceeding with the sale of national carrier TAP despite the legal concerns about the bidding process that emerged last week. While the procedural improprieties raised by the administrative court are believed to be minor, a second area of potential legal concern has received less attention. The two leading bidders competing to acquire a controlling interest in the airline are investors associated with Latin American carriers Azul and Avianca. The European Union's requirement that community carriers be majority-owned by nationals of a European Union Member State would presumably prevent either of these bidders from obtaining the full 61 percent stake the Portuguese government is auctioning off. Foreign ownership and/or control would also endanger TAP's ability to operate international routes under Portugal's bilateral air services agreements as well as the multilateral agreements to which Portugal is a party through its EU membership.
What explains the seeming lack of concern over TAP's likely sale to a non-European interest? In all likelihood, both the Portuguese government and the prospective buyers are confident a deal can be structured to evade the foreign ownership rules. Evidence of this attitude can be seen in a Wall Street Journal story from last week reporting that if Azul's investors, if successful in their bid for TAP, would keep the two airlines separate "for legal reasons" and coordinate their operations through an alliance. Local partners can probably be found to ensure sufficient European ownership of TAP, or perhaps the winning bidder will be content to take a 49 percent stake and exert significant managerial influence as Etihad has done with some of its recent European investments. Creative work-arounds such as these have become increasingly prevalent throughout international aviation. At some point policy makers need to consider the utility of maintaining foreign ownership restrictions that are only loosely enforced and add layers of complexity onto airlines' corporate structures to preserve a fiction of legal compliance.
Thursday, June 4, 2015
A useful example of the ability of the international community to pressure a non-compliant state into reforms is currently underway in Thailand. Earlier this year, an ICAO audit revealed deficiencies in the country's safety oversight. That finding has jeopardized the ability of Thai carriers to operate charter flights to Japan and China, leading to a memorandum of understanding under which the Thai government will submit its reform proposals to the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau for review. The current plans for restructuring the Thai Department of Civil Aviation involve the creation of a separate airports authority and safety and licensing regulator, potentially funded by a direct levy on Thai carriers. Thailand appears to be feeling added pressure because of upcoming inspections planned by the U.S. FAA in July and another ICAO audit, this time of Thailand's aviation security practices, next year.
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
The Supreme Administrative Court of Portugal issued an injunction earlier today against the government's plan to sell national carrier TAP on the grounds that the government had failed to follow proper procedure under Portuguese law by neglecting to have the airline's finances independently evaluated. The government reportedly hopes to seek relief from the ruling and move forward with this plan accept bids this Friday.
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
According to a Bloomberg report, Brazil will not be moving forward with a proposal to subsidize operations to underserved airports and provide financing to regional airports. The plan had been under discussion by Brazilian officials for the past year, but budgetary concerns appear to have convinced the government to shelve the idea for at least the near-term.
Monday, June 1, 2015
Citing concerns about substandard oversight of airport security procedures by the German government, the European Commission has referred Germany to the EU Court of Justice for noncompliance with EU Regulation 300/2008. The EC was careful to state that it has no evidence that actual security practices at German airports have been inadequate, but that it believes the frequency and scope of monitoring by German authorities does not comport with EU requirements.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
The Irish government has decided to support the sale of it's 25 percent stake in national carrier Aer Lingus to International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG). All eyes now turn to Ryanair, Aer Lingus' largest shareholder and itself the source of multiple takeover bids. If Ryanair also decides in favor of an IAG takeover, the deal will likely move forward subject to competition review.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) reportedly will begin assigning safety ratings to all foreign carriers serving Chinese airports, with the possibility of revoking licenses of carriers with low scores. The carriers will be evaluated on their accident histories, regulatory compliance, and any safety complaints. It is not yet clear how the CAAC intends to compile the data on which it will be basing its evaluations, though an early guess is that it will rely on information obtained through ICAO's Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme. There has been no indication yet that the CAAC intends to perform its own ramp inspections as the European Union does or audits of foreign aviation regulators as are performed by the United States.
Monday, May 18, 2015
The University of Zagreb Faculty of Law and the Croatian Academy of Legal Sciences invite you to attend the First International Transport and Insurance Law Conference – INTRANSLAW Zagreb 2015, on October 15 and 16. The conference will gather everyone who deals with issues in this sector – academically or professionally – and will feature presentations, panel discussions, and speeches by internationally recognized scholars and professionals. The goal is to create a forum for an academic and professional discussion of EU Transport Law and the numerous topical issues related to this wide, complex and dynamic legal field, particularly considering Croatia’s recent accession to EU membership and the necessary harmonization of its local laws with the legal regime of the EU.
There is still time for professionals who wish to make presentations to apply with their abstracts, and the Conference is open to everyone as a listener. Early bird registration ends June 1st. Details are available here: www.intranslaw.eu.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
The International Aviation Law Institute (IALI) at DePaul University College of Law welcomes Dr. Sarah Jane Fox from Coventry University in England who will be joining us this fall as a Fulbright Scholar. Dr. Fox holds a PhD in law from the University of Northumbria and specializes in free movement and transport policy.
IALI Executive Director Stephen Rudolph offered the following thoughts:
“We welcome Dr. Fox to DePaul Law and the Institute, and we look forward to working with her on critical aviation issues that touch on international law, policy, and diplomacy. Her presence will enable us to broaden our research agenda and deepen our commitment to study civil aviation governance at the international level. We’re also honored that the US-UK Fulbright Commission chose to recognize Dr. Fox and her work, as well as the importance and vitality of this area of scholarship.”
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
The European Commission has concluded its antitrust proceedings into the joint venture by members of the SkyTeam alliance, accepting the commitments proposed by KLM/Air France, Delta, and Alitalia last year. These commitments, which are now legally binding, include slot usage on routes connecting Rome, Amsterdam, and New York, as well as providing competitors access to the carriers' frequent flyer programs. This concludes the EC's investigation into the third and final of the major global alliances, having already accepted commitments from oneworld and Star in 2010 and 2013 respectively.
Monday, May 11, 2015
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been a frequent subject of criticism for its cautious approach to integration of civilian unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the nation's airspace. The agency has recently been addressing some of those concerns. Approximately six weeks ago, the FAA introduced a "blanket" Certificate of Authorization for UAS operators with Section 333 exemptions. Today, the FAA announced a new smartphone app that will allow small UAS operators to determine if there are operating restrictions specific to the airspace in which they are planning to fly. Additionally, the agency also announced today that it will be working with three private sector partners to identify ways in which small UAS might be safely operated in populated areas and in unpopulated areas beyond the operator's visual line-of-sight. This could be a highly important initiative as the visual line-of-sight restrictions and the prohibition on operating in populated areas were two of the provisions in the FAA's recently released notice of proposed rulemaking thought to be most limiting to the development of commercial uses for small UAS.
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has announced new training requirements to better prepare pilots employed by European airlines to respond to loss of control situations including stalls and inclement weather. This training is intended to prevent some of the mistakes believed to have contributed to the 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447. States were recommended to adopt these training requirements last year by ICAO. European carriers will have until May 2016 to become compliant, and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is producing implementation guidelines to assist the carriers.
Monday, May 4, 2015
The ICAO Dangerous Goods Panel met last week, and has reportedly agreed to consider proposals for amending the packaging standards for lithium batteries. The batteries create a potential fire hazard that has caused multiple carriers to self-impose restrictions on their transport. The Dangerous Goods Panel's plan appears to be to make specific recommendations late this year in the hopes of securing approval in time to include the changes in the 2017-18 edition of the Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
The list of articles for the Spring 2015 edition of Issues in Aviation Law & Policy has been released. Titles and authors are listed below.
- Pai Zheng, Justifications and Limits of ADIZs under Public International Law
- Úna McLaughlin, Identifying Three Waves in the European Commission’s Increasingly Strict Approach to Airline Remedies
- Philip Donges Snodgrass, Aviation Flags of Convenience: Ireland and the Case of Norwegian Airlines International
- Benjamyn Ian Scott, International Suborbital Passenger Transportation: An Analysis of the Current Legal Situation of Transit and Traffic Rights and its Appropriate Regulation
- Adejoke O. Adediran, States’ Responsibility Concerning International Civil Aviation Safety: Lessons from the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 Air Crash
- Moses George, Airport Privatization – International Organizations and Emerging Issues
- Delphine Defossez, Will There Be More Competition After the Single European Sky Is Implemented?
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Earlier this month the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Volodarskiy v. Delta Airlines, affirming the opinion of the Northern District Court of Illinois that Regulation 261/2004 of the European Union (EU 261), which pertains to the rights of airline passengers to certain treatment and possibly compensation for canceled or delayed flights, does not provide for judicial redress outside of the EU Member States.
At issue here was whether a passenger entitled to bring an EU 261 claim could choose to do so in U.S. courts. In a handful of prior cases, plaintiffs have had limited success bring breach of contract claims in U.S. courts against carriers they alleged to have incorporated the compensation requirements of EU 261 into their terms of service. Having conceded at an earlier stage of litigation that such a claim was unavailable in this case, the plaintiffs rather cleverly argued that they should be able to seek to enforce the right of action granted by EU 261 directly in U.S. courts. The text of EU 261 instructs Member States to establish administrative bodies for the purposes of handling EU 261 claims, and permits passengers to seek relief through the "competent courts and bodies." The plaintiffs contended that there is no explicit requirement within the text that passengers that choose to seek relief via courts restrict themselves to the courts of the EU Member States. Evident in both the oral arguments and the written opinion is the court's keen awareness that the likely purpose behind attempting to bring these relatively small value claims in the U.S. is the possibility of combining multiple claims into a high dollar class action.
Regardless of the motivations behind the case, the question of whether a private right of action created by an EU regulation with no analogue in U.S. law should be recognized in U.S. courts is highly interesting. As the court observed on page 8 of its opinion, "It is hard to classify this dispute doctrinally. It has shadings of jurisdiction, venue, and choice-of-law, but it doesn't fit neatly into any of these doctrinal baskets." The court ultimately decided that the text of EU 261 is best interpreted as authorizing a private right of action only within the courts of the EU Member States. The opinion includes some discussion of comity, forum non conveniens, and similar alternative principles on which a decision might have been based, but those appear largely relegated to dicta.
The full opinion can be found here.
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Applying the recently revised Guidelines on State aid to airports and airlines, the European Commission has approved three schemes proposed by the French government for the purposes of improving regional connectivity and development and relieving air traffic congestion.
Thursday, April 2, 2015
We hope to offer additional details and commentary as more facts emerge from last week's tragedy involving Germanwings Flight 9525, but for now what follows is an overview of the basic legal issues pertaining to the event as we understand them.
French authorities bear the primary responsibility for leading the investigation into the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 and producing the final accident report. This assignment of responsibility stems from Annex 13 of the International Convention on Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention), which assigns responsibility for investigating the circumstances of an accident to the State of Occurrence. Other States legally entitled to have representatives participate in the investigation include the State of Registry, State of the Operator, and the State of Design and Manufacture. Because the aircraft in question was an Airbus A320 aircraft registered in Germany and operated by a German carrier, Germany appears to be the only other State with a legal right to participate in the investigation.
The primary legal concern with the conduct of the investigation, which is in its early stages, is the amount of information that has been leaked to the general public. Standard 5.12 from Annex 13 instructs the State conducting the investigation not to disclose a wide range of information including statements from investigation authorities, communications between persons operating the aircraft, cockpit recordings or transcripts thereof, medical or similarly private personal information about persons involved in the accident, and the analysis or opinions of accident investigators, unless a determination is made that the disclosure of such information outweighs any potential impact on this or future investigations. While it appears to this point that most of the public disclosures have been made by French criminal investigators as opposed to the technical accident investigators, such as France’s Bureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses (BEA), the past week has demonstrated how difficult it is to conduct a confidential investigation in the current social media environment.
Because this was an international flight and the affected States are all signatories, civil liability is governed by the 1999 Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air (Montreal Convention). This treaty sets no monetary cap on recovery, but does prohibit recovery of punitive or other non-compensatory damages.
The treaty holds Lufthansa (Germanwings is a wholly owned Lufthansa subsidiary) strictly liable for all proven damages up to 113,100 Special Drawing Rights (approximately $160,000) and presumes liability for any additional proven damages, unless the carrier is able to prove that the damage was not cause by its own negligence, wrongful act, or omission, or that of its agents or that the damage was solely caused by a third party. Pilots are considered agents of their employers. Based on the information presently available, there is no evidence that the carrier will be able to successfully defend itself from liability.
Lufthansa is likely to settle the vast majority of claims, with amounts likely to vary primarily based on the nationality of the victims. This variance is attributable to the ways different nationalities calculate damages in wrongful death cases as well as differences in national legal cultures regarding large awards. Should any claims proceed to litigation the plaintiffs will likely have their choice of forums between Germany and the home State of the passenger. Depending on where their tickets were purchased or the precise details of the passengers’ itinerary, some additional forums may be available to individual plaintiffs.
The Montreal Convention does not require carriers to provide advance payments to the families of victims to cover immediate needs, but it does permit States to impose such a requirement on their carriers which the European Union has done for all community carriers. Lufthansa has already announced plans to make advance payments of approximately $54,000 per passenger.
Ultimately, of course, the damages will actually be paid by Lufthansa’s insurers. Article 50 of the Montreal Convention mandates that States require their carriers be adequately insured to cover any and all liability to passengers that may arise under the Convention. Lufthansa is certain to have a separate policy covering the loss of the aircraft.
According to the standards contained in Annex 13 to the Chicago Convention, accident investigations are to be conducted for the purpose of gathering information to prevent future accidents and incidents and not for the purpose of apportioning blame or liability. However, some States pursue criminal liability for accidents and incidents involving aircraft according to their national laws. France is particularly aggressive about bringing criminal prosecutions for aircraft accidents. At these very early stages of the investigation, there does not yet appear to be any strong candidates for criminal prosecution.
One policy change has already been implemented in response to this incident, as airlines in Europe, Australia, Canada and elsewhere have begun requiring there to be two crew members in the cockpit at all times. This was already common practice in the United States. Given the recentness of the incident, these measures are, for now, voluntary. Though an incident of this nature will and should provoke further study of how to prevent its recurrence, with early commentary already focusing on pilot screening measures and cockpit security, it would be presumptive to recommend any significant changes to airline procedures before all of the evidence has been collected and analyzed.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
The public debate over accusations of subsidies to the so-called "Gulf carriers," Etihad, Emirates, and Qatar has intensified in recent days as calls for action have expanded from rival airlines to include important government officials. Last Friday, transport ministers from France and Germany, with the backing of their counterparts from Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Sweden, publicly expressed their desire for changes to EU law and policy that could restrict Gulf carriers' access to the European market and/or impose conditions on that access such as transparency requirements. Yesterday, William Shuster, Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, endorsed the position of the U.S. carriers. Executives from the U.S. and Gulf carriers debated the issue at a forum organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, at which the Gulf carriers promised a full rebuttal of the recently released white paper in which the U.S. carriers detail their claims.