27 March 2007

Argentina-US air services arrangements to expand

A statement issued by the US State Department announces new air services arrangements initialled by Argentina and the United States at negotiations held on 20-22 March 2007 in Washington DC. It is not "open skies" for passenger services but available capacity would be substantially increased and new route opportunities created.

26 March 2007

Shipping emissions

A 3 March 2007 article in the Guardian by John Vidal headed "CO2 output from shipping twice as much as airlines" points to new research by BP Marine and the German Institute for Physics and Atmosphere about emissions from shipping being higher than previously thought. These studies have attracted the attention of the European Federation for Transport and Environment, a Brussels-based NGO.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) based in London plays a similar role in setting environmental standards to that played by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) with respect to aviation and emissions. The European Commission's DG Environment also takes close interest in ship emissions.

Again like aviation, the environmental impact of shipping is being ameliorated as new technology is introduced but it would seem that the growth in cargo volumes is more than offsetting this progress.

24 March 2007

EU position on EC proposal to include international aviation in its emissions trading scheme not yet established

A 22 March 2006 statement from European Union Transport Council President and German Transport Minister, Wolfgang Tiefensee, indicates that the position to be taken by EU member states to what he expects will be "heated" debate at the ICAO Council and September 2007 Assembly has yet to be established.

Media statements on and coverage of the conditional approval of the EU-US "open skies" ATA

Following the unanimous conditional approval on 22 March 2007 by European Union transport ministers of the draft EU-US "open skies" Air Transport Agreement (ATA), statements have been released by:

Media coverage has included that in the Belfast Telegraph, BusinessWeek, the Guardian, the International Herald Tribune and the Times.

23 March 2007

EU-US Air Transport Agreement given conditional approval by European Transport Ministers

Reports are coming through (see stories from the BBC, Bloomberg and Reuters) that the draft European Union-United States Air Transport Agreement has received the necessary unanimous approval from European Transport Ministers meeting in Brussels. The approval is, however, conditional.

As signaled, implementation would be delayed by five months until March 2008 when British Airways moves into Terminal 5 at London Heathrow. In addition elements of the new agreement could be suspended by individual EU member states if the United States does not agree to an exchange of eight and ninth freedom traffic rights within two years. The US Congressional reaction to the latter will be interesting.

The US Secretary for Transportation, Mary Peters, has already issued a short statement welcoming the deal.

In a bilateral air services agreement signed on 26 July 2005 the United Kingdom exchanged eight and ninth freedom traffic rights with New Zealand. Air New Zealand was fortunate to be able to double the number of London Heathrow slots it holds when it did.

22 March 2007

The UAE negotiates new air services arrangements with India

A new Memorandum of Understanding was signed by India and the United Arab Emirates on 15 March 2007.

Australia agrees large phased air capacity increase with the UAE

The Australian Transport Minister, Mark Vaile, on 22 March 2007 announced that Australia and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to new air services arrangements that involve the phased introduction of a large increase in capacity limits on the carriers of both countries. Reports of the new deal are carried in the Australian and the Age.

Major beneficiaries of this announcement will be Etihad Airways and Emirates Airline who between them will be able to operate an additional 56 flights per week to major Australia cities by 2011.

One cannot but help wonder what influence this announcement will have on institutions deciding on how to react to the current bid for Qantas shares.

US DoT gives tentative approval to Virgin America

On 20 March 2007 the United States Department of Transportation announced its tentative conditional approval of Virgin America. Not surprisingly Virgin America has welcomed the announcement.

One suspects that the timing of this announcement just ahead of a decision by European Union Transport Ministers on the proposed EU-US "open skies" agreement is not entirely coincidental.

European Transport Ministers to decide on "open skies" deal with the United States

Tonight, New Zealand time, European Transport Ministers are due to make a decision on the proposed European Union-United States "open skies" Air Transport Agreement. With a power of veto the position taken by the UK Transport Minister will be key. The German Minister chairing the meeting is reported by Reuters to be optimistic that a deal can be reached.

UK media reports in the Daily Mail and on Reuters suggest that the United Kingdom will not oppose the deal but has been seeking a one-year extension of the restrictions on access to London Heathrow. Why? This would be to allow British Airways to consolidate all its Heathrow operations in the new Terminal Five, due to open in March 2008, before facing new competition.

20 March 2007

Niue signs the PIASA

The Fiji Daily Post reported on 19 March 2007 that Niue has signed the Pacific Islands Air Services Agreement (PIASA). The PIASA needs six countries to ratify it before it comes into force. So far it has been ratified by the Cook Islands, Nauru, Samoa and Tonga. Along with Niue, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu have signed but have yet to ratify the treaty.

I attended the negotiation of this agreement in Fiji and Tonga.

Solomons Airlines cannot operate between Santos and Brisbane

The Solomons Star reported on 19 March 2007 that Solomons Airlines is unable to operate between Santos in Vanuatu and Brisbane in Australia. The rights to operate such a service on a scheduled basis with fifth freedom rights would need to be negotiated by the Solomon Islands with Vanuatu and separately with Australia.

Compensation for delay of passengers in New Zealand

Today a media statement UPDATED issued on 19 March 2007 by the Minister of Consumer Affairs, Judith Tizard, about domestic air passenger rights to compensation when delayed has been headline news in the Herald and the Press, and was carried on the TVNZ web site. The TV3 web site reports on the Minister's interest in a possible code of conduct for airlines.

This followed a news story in the Press last week reporting on two passengers being denied boarding on Air New Zealand flights allegedly because of overbooking. Overbooking itself is not illegal. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs initially urged passengers to read the fine print on their tickets. Unfortunately it turned out that most New Zealand domestic airlines had failed to update their fine print which referred to the Carriage by Air Act 1967 (or in some cases the Carriage Act 1967 [sic]). This Act was replaced in mid 2004 with a new Part9B (this starts at s.91U) of the Civil Aviation Act 1990 which carried over provisions relating to possible compensation for delay (New Zealand legislation is available online). The speeches in Parliament from the Third Reading (18 March 2004) of the Civil Aviation Amendment Bill are available in Hansard.

Here are the updated Air New Zealand Conditions of Carriage. At the time of writing the Qantas Conditions of Contract had yet to be corrected [they subsequently have been].

18 March 2007

Another presentation by Hans Rosling

Another excellent presentation (this one is longer) by Hans Rosling using the Trendalyzer software (see my previous posting) - this time at the Le Web 3 conference in Paris late last year.

South Africa's Airlift Strategy 2006

South Africa's Airlift Strategy 2006 prepared by the Department of Transport and approved by the South African Cabinet on 26 July 2006 is available on the web (now available here UPDATED). It gives an interesting insight into South African thinking with respect to air services arrangements.

17 March 2007

Trendalyzer - graphing data in four dimensions, including time

A 16 March 2007 post on the Official Google Blog announced the acquisition by Google from the Swedish Gapminder Foundation of Trendalyzer data visualisation software and its development team. The example linked to by the post uses cross-country comparison data over time to present animated graphs and maps (Adobe Flash is required). Try it - it's brilliant!

There is also available on the web a presentation by Gapminder founder Hans Rosling using this software at TED last year. It is well worth taking the time to watch.

Virgin America makes "final reply" to US DoT

Virgin America has filed with the US Department of Transportation (DoT) a final reply dated 14 March 2007 concerning its application (Docket No. OST-2005-23307).

On 20 February 2007 Aviation Daily reported on what the major critics were saying in their most recent filings.

Tiger Airways gains Australian FIRB approval for cabotage operation

The Australian reported on 15 March 2007 that Singaporean airline Tiger Airways, which already operates Singapore-Darwin air services and is about to start operating to Perth, has received approval from the Australian Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) to establish a domestic low-cost airline, Tiger Airways Australia. In the jargon this will be what is called a ninth freedom operation, something that very few countries permit - Australia and New Zealand are notable exceptions.

Tiger Airways, established in 2004, is owned by Singapore Airlines (49%), a private equity firm, Indigo Partners (24%), the founders of Ryanair (16%) and Temasek (11%).

The airline intends to operate Airbus A320 aircraft and will now decide on a base airport and seek safety certification.

China-Sri Lanka air services negotiations

In a report dated 13 March 2007 the Daily News previewed air services negotiations Sri Lanka was scheduled to have with China in Beijing on 14-15 March.

New Zealand Institute releases "So far yet so close" report

A key issue for New Zealand's development is our remoteness from the global centres of economic activity. The New Zealand Institute, a privately funded think tank based in Auckland, published on 12 March 2007 an interesting discussion paper that seeks to address this issue. It is entitled So far yet so close: Connecting New Zealand to the global economy (1.8Mb .pdf) and written by David Skilling and Danielle Boven. The paper is part of a series.

To highlight just one very interesting piece of analysis, Figure 4 (page 14) is a graph showing the connectivity of various international airports around the world including Auckland. The measure of connectivity used is more fully explained in an IATA Economics Briefing on Airline Network Benefits from January 2006. The disappointment to me is that some other key aviation hubs from a global perspective, such as Dubai, are not included in the graph.

Among other things, the New Zealand Institute discussion paper also looks at transport costs, the nature of the goods being shipped from New Zealand by air and sea, and has some conclusions about the importance of Air New Zealand to our economy (pages 23-24).

I think the phrase "tyranny of distance" used in the discussion paper comes from the Australian transport history book "The Tyranny of Distance: How Distance Shaped Australia's History" written by Prof Geoffrey Blainey and first published in 1966. It is still an excellent read.

US critics of draft US-EU ATA

On 16 March 2007 the Australian carried a report of US union criticism of the draft US-European Union Air Transport Agreement (ATA). In a statement dated 7 March 2007 the Washington DC based Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) expressed its opposition.

Representative James Oberstar (D) and two other Congressmen, Jerry Costello (D) and Frank LoBiondo (R), wrote on 14 March 2007 to US Secretary for Transportation, Mary Peters, questioning aspects of the deal, according to reports from the Associated Press and Financial Times. The following day ALPA issued a media statement in support of the letter.

UK House of Commons Transport Committee examines draft US-EU ATA

On Tuesday, 13 March 2007 the UK House of Commons Transport Committee held hearings on the draft US-European Union "open skies" Air Transport Agreement (ATA) (Press Notice). These included an appearance by the Secretary for State for Transport, Douglas Alexander. Articles reporting on the hearings appeared in the Guardian, Belfast Telegraph, Independent and Reuters.

New Australia-Qatar Air Services Agreement

Articles in the International Herald Tribune, Age and the Herald Sun report on a 16 March 2007 Australian Transport Minister Mark Vaile announcement NEW of new air services arrangements between Australia and Qatar finalised in Doha the previous day. The capacity limits provide for a daily service to Melbourne by a Qatari airline and from 2008 an additional daily service to "another Australian city."

Qantas has released a media statement commenting on the implications of the new arrangements.

15 March 2007

Draft text of US-European Union Air Transport Agreement

The full draft text of the United States-European Union Air Transport Agreement initialled on 2 March 2007 is now available attached as an Annex to a European Parliament document.

14 March 2007

Canada-United States "Open Skies" arrangements enter into force

On Monday, 12 March 2007, in Washington DC Canada and the United States signed new arrangements that exchange open fifth and seventh freedom cargo rights. The text had been initialled back on 10 November 2005.

The United States and Canada have both issued official statements on the new arrangements.

This continues the implementation of the Canadian Government's new "Blue Sky" policy.

11 March 2007

Morgan wins at the Ribbon Trial

Wendy took my Standard Poodle dog, Morgan, in the Elementary 2 competition at today's Titahi Bay Canine Obedience Club ribbon trial and they came first with a very good score!

Competing at the next level up, Bree moved when she should have been doing a sit-stay. Well it was hot in the sun and ...

On 27 January 2007 I posted on the last time they competed.

Today I went along late, left early and concluded that I am definitely not 100% health wise yet.

10 March 2007

Swissair trial drawing to a close

Good English-language coverage of the Swissair trial is available on the swissinfo web site. We now await the verdicts, expected to be released in May.

I travelled on successor airline Swiss International (LX) this month between Bangkok and Switzerland. The standard of service was very good. Swiss is currently around one third the size of Swissair in terms of staff numbers.

US-European Commission air transport negotiations reach a conclusion

Friday, 2 March 2007 saw negotiators reach a deal in Brussels that will be put to the European Council of Transport Ministers on 22 March 2007. The European Commission has released a summary and a nine-page Information Note, while the US State Department has produced an article and the US Secretary of Transportation has released a short statement. The consensus seems to be that the deal will require the unanimous backing of all EU member states to go ahead - in effect, the UK can veto it.

At a very well-timed Chatham House conference in London on international aviation this week key players in this long-running drama started to outline their current positions:

There has also been reaction from two other UK airlines with a direct interest, Virgin Atlantic and bmi. Reporting includes that in the Times NEW, Financial Times, BBC, The Independent, the International Herald Tribune and The Economist.

One cannot but help think that early US Department of Transportation approval of the Virgin America reapplication could help make the deal more acceptable in Whitehall.

Conditions on the Qantas sale

On 6 March 2007 Australian Treasurer, Peter Costello, and Minister of Transport, Mark Vaile, announced the details of conditions on the proposed purchase and delisting of Qantas (transcript of joint press conference). The conditions have been imposed in the form of a Deed of Undertaking. A story the following day in the Australian reported on reactions.

In a related posting on 9 January 2007 I noted the conditions imposed on Air New Zealand to allow it to complete the purchase of Ansett Australia. There is some evidence that the Australian Government has learnt from that experience.

A question, however, that remains for me in this proposed deal is what will be the impact of a more highly geared Qantas balance sheet in the face of external shocks and the inevitable cyclical industry downturns. The Age touched on this issue on 16 February 2007 in a report by Malcolm Maiden and opinion piece by Kenneth Davidson which suggested that this should have been grounds to veto the bid. Whether this is an appropriate grounds for government intervention is another question.

Travel health

This is my first posting for a while.

On Monday afternoon this week I returned from meetings in a rather cold Geneva, Switzerland. I started coughing in the taxi from the airport and things went rapidly downhill from there - I will spare readers the gory details. I simply note that have yet to make it into the office and suspect that I won't be competing with my dog Morgan in the annual Titahi Bay Canine Obedience Club ribbon trial tomorrow - my wife, Wendy, might take him though. The doctor concluded that I had managed to catch a good dose of influenza, probably on the flights over.

As I usually have an annual 'flu shot ahead of the Southern Hemisphere winter, have made sure that other vaccinations are up to date and carry a few basic medications with me, catching a virus is rather frustrating. This has got me looking at the fine print at the back of the itinerary prepared by the travel agent. They list two web sites that are worth looking at:

Both have a good range of health information for travellers.

Previous health problems while travelling have usually involved me catching heavy colds. Food poisoning caught in Samoa and Tonga has probably been the most serious for me but a full recovery was made relatively rapidly in both cases. Friends have not been so fortunate and I have heard some serious sagas involving tropical parasites.

This week I have also had the results back from a series of hearing tests. Suffice to say that they help explain why I have never really had a great appreciation of music, particularly of the modern pop kind!

So much for my individual health issues. On a wider scale, I am very conscious of what a devastating impact viruses can have on the community in general and the role that international air transport in particular can play in their spread. SARS and avian 'flu have provided us with warnings in recent years. A colleague of mine has spent much of the last two years involved in the transport aspects of contingency planning as New Zealand prepares for what many regard as inevitable pandemics.