Asia Must Liberalize Air Transport, Says Singapore Minister

AIN Air Transport Perspective » February 17, 2014
Vietnam LCC Jetstar Pacific accounts for 4 percent of Southeast Asia's domestic market.
Vietnam LCC Jetstar Pacific accounts for 4 percent of Southeast Asia's domestic market.
February 10, 2014, 5:20 AM

Singapore’s transport minister, Lui Tuck Yew, has called for Asian nations to liberalize air transport policies, and build connectivity and infrastructure in the region. He was speaking at the Aviation Leadership Summit, held on February 9 in Singapore.

Southeast Asia’s aviation landscape has undergone a substantial change and transformation with the rise of budget carriers, which now comprise 50 percent of the market. “Low-cost airlines have brought air travel to secondary airports, [with] a focus on short-haul travel, and are code-sharing with legacy carriers. In Asia they have set up affiliates to form interconnecting networks…Governments need to embrace the LCC sector,” said Lui.

As traffic increases, pressure grows on governments to ensure sufficient capacity at airports. While Seoul, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta have announced plans for airport expansion, Singapore’s Changi International Airport will see capacity rise to 135 million passengers when the planned terminal five opens, said Lui. He added that the pace of airport capacity expansion needs to be in step with the availability of a skilled human-resource base. Singapore has signed a memorandum of understanding on aviation training with the International Civil Aviation Organization, Lui said.

The issue of air traffic rights restrictions in Asia has gained prominence as the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) edges toward Open Skies in 2015. The ASEAN-China pact that permits free access between the two blocks has proved beneficial as it has brought greater connectivity, said Lui.

“I’m concerned about the negative impact of growing regulatory divergence and the proliferation of ‘unique approaches’ to regulating the industry…[we have to] ensure that regulations do not conflict with global standards,” said Tony Tyler, director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association.

“Governments will need political will to liberalize, and I don’t really see that now,” added Tyler.

Another area of concern centers on congested skies in the region. Last year ICAO signed an air traffic management collaboration pact with Beijing that will prove helpful, said Lui. He added Singapore’s new third-generation ATC system with surveillance technology would accommodate more aircraft in the same volume of airspace.

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