Regionals still not sold on ‘third package’

 - September 27, 2007, 7:35 AM

ERA member airlines continue to express concern about proposals for a significant overhaul of regulations governing the region’s deregulated air-transport area. Any European Commission (EC) changes to the so-called “third package” rules agreed upon by the European Parliament and the EU Council of Transport Ministers will likely go into effect either next year or in 2009, according to ERA.

If adopted as proposed by the EC’s energy and transport directorate-general, the changes would remove outdated and unused clauses, introduce new constraints and consolidate the text into a single regulation. Nevertheless, according to ERA air transport policy director Andrew Clarke,  there remain seven key areas of particular concern to regional operators:

• licensing of airlines (including provisions for awarding, maintaining and withdrawing operating licenses and definition of principal business places);

• bankruptcy-protection measures for consumers and employees;

• restrictions on aircraft registration;

• restrictions on leasing between EU member states and severe limits on wet leasing from outside the EU;

• introduction of social provisions, especially applicable to crews posted to other EU member states, but which ERA believes other EU and national laws sufficiently cover;

• changes to clauses governing public-service obligation operations, especially on complex definitions of “a regional airport”; and

• transparency of published fares (to include all taxes, fees and charges).
On the last two points, European regionals have welcomed withdrawal of complex definitions of regional airports but remain concerned that the inclusive fares could be subject to overly burdensome requirements.

“There is still work to do on the EC third-package changes, since the Council of Ministers under the presidency of Greece during the first six months of this year did not obtain the political agreement needed to verify the text,” said Clarke.

According to Clarke, the Council could adopt such an approach within months. He added, however, that a draft text on which the European Parliament would vote omitted some concerns while introducing others.

“Given the significant differences between positions taken by the Council and EP, it seems unlikely that [they will agree] before the end of 2007,” he told ERA members in July.