Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Asia Pacific Carriers Speak Out Against Safety Blacklists

 by Neelam Mathews  - December 1, 2015, 10:00 AM

Some Asian airlines have had their operations inhibited by restrictions imposed by U.S. and European authorities over concerns about alleged poor safety oversight by their national aviation authorities. [Photo: Neelam Mathews}


As Asia Pacific airlines experience strong passenger growth, the region continues to face a host of diverse challenges, not least of which involves effective safety oversight. At the recent Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) annual 59th Assembly of Presidents in Bali, delegates also called on governments to boost infrastructure investment, simplify passenger facilitation and moderate consumer rights legislation. But perhaps the foremost concern centered on what AAPA director general Andrew Herdman characterized as a heavy handed regulatory approach by world aviation bodies toward airlines whose countries’ aviation authorities do not meet international standards.
Authorities have restricted or even banned Asian carriers from Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines from operating to European Union and U.S. destinations due to a lack of effective regulatory oversight in their home countries. “AAPA remains opposed to the unilateral imposition of extra-territorial measures and operating restrictions,” said Herdman. He added while the systems of some national civil aviation regulatory bodies need strengthening, “airlines should not be held responsible for their [authorities’] shortcomings, [as] the possibility of operations to various destinations being restricted or even banned could have a major detrimental impact on certain carriers from the region.” Herdman called for “a more light-handed approach to the industry, rather than taking actions that involve more regulatory hurdles, additional legislation and unfair taxation.”
The Indonesian government, which imposed restrictions on airlines for failing to meet international standards, now plans significant investments in safety across all areas of transportation. “Next year the government will allocate around $1 billion for safety improvements, including sea, rail and air transport,” said Minister of Transportation Ignasius Jonan. The figure represents the highest amount ever spent in a single year in Indonesia.
Contradictions remain, however. “The challenge for Asia Pacific is how to counterbalance its development in market terms even as the U.S. and Europe still set the pace with intensity of regulation,” said Herdman. “We are strong supporters of an ICAO that sets ambitious standards, but the problem is the degree of compliance by states on standards leaves a lot to be desired.”
Another hot topic centers on airspace risk assessment associated with flights over conflict zones, as the AAPAseeks further streamlining of the processes by which governments share intelligence and information related to flight safety. “Safety requires close cooperation between regulators, airlines and other involved stakeholders, with the sharing of data and best practices,” said Herdman.
Airline margins, meanwhile, remain sluggish. Fierce competition has led to reduced yields for all carriers in a region that contains many of the busiest air routes in the world. “Bleak results in a good year of traffic growth show how competitive the market is,” said Herdman. “Slow growth of freighters is still looming over the sector as belly capacity grows at 6 percent.”


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