Far Eastern and Pacific countries like Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Hongkong, China, Thailand, Malaysia etc have also signed as liberal bilateral air services agreements with UAE & Qatar as Pakistan did. The airlines of these countries also grumble the same way as our airlines.

The situation in Europe and USA is the same. European legacy carriers like Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France-KLM, Iberia (Spain), Alitalia (Italy) have also been protesting against liberal air traffic rights granted to the airlines of UAE & Qatar. In North America Delta Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines Corporation, and Southwest went too far in trying to undo open-skies agreements with UAE & Qatar, particularly against big three—Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways. In fact, President Trump made it a point in his 2016 election campaign but found out that open-skies agreement could not be undone and that it was good for American people. These big three airlines continue to operate to at least 10 majorcities in USA including US West Coast.

These big three airlines also operate to almost every significant country in South America like Brazil, Chile, and Argentina. Same is the situation of African countries. The only country in the world that has so far resisted granting liberal traffic rights to the airlines of UAE and Qatar is Canada, which will also fall in line over time.

This proves that almost countries in the world no more protect their airlines from competition may it be domestic sector or international sector because this good for the travelling public in terms of price and quality of service. Inefficient airlines, may it be government owned or private, would have to shut down, sold or merged with other airlines.

The process for the development of National Aviation Policy 2000 (NAP-2000) commenced in 2005 and culminated in March 2015 (NAP-2015). The policy was developed in consultation with all possible stakeholders over a period of 10 years including Pakistani airlines, charter operators, flying schools, Ground Handling Agencies, Representatives of Travel Agencies, Representatives of Consumers like FPCCI, Civil Aviation Authority, Ministry of Defense, Planning Commission, Finance Ministry, Law Ministry, Representatives of Asian Development Bank, Representatives of World Bank, Representatives of IATA, and EX DGCAAs etc. Guidelines from ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) on liberalization of Air Transport Regulation following 2003 World Air Transport Conference and Aviation policies of at least 11 countries including Saudi Arabia, India, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, USA, Switzerland, Scandinavian countries and UK etc were considered.

The new policy (2015) addresses the development of ‘air transport system’ as a whole which includes aviation safety, aviation security, connectivity, trade, tourism, and sustainable growth of aviation services in the country. The essence of National Aviation Policy 2015 is reflected in it’s six key objectives which include (i) Improvement of governance and oversight for the compliance of ICAO standards of aviation safety, security and efficiency. (ii) Providing level playing field for national airlines and liberalize aviation sector in the country by allowing market forces to determine the price, quality, frequency and range of air services options. (iii) Following suitable Public-Private Partnership (PPP) models for the operations, management and development of airports. (iv) Developing a state-of-the-art infrastructure for the provision of safe and efficient air transportation. (v) Incentivizing aviation sector for socio-economic growth. (vi) To create conditions conducive for affordable general aviation activities, i.e., sports flying and inter-city air travel by private aircraft /air-taxi service/charters, etc.

In its development process security and safety were identified as major concerns that deserved utmost priority. Greater issue was security of airports and safety of passengers and supporting staff. The physical assets at the airports had to be secured from possible terrorist attacks. Threat identification, threat analysis and preventive measures had to be undertaken on priority. Effective deterrence, using technology and innovation had to be adopted. Nine chapters of the policy are perfectly in line with the objectives of the policy. These nine chapters include: (i) Safety, Security & Economic Oversight (ii) Liberalization & Economic Development (iii) Organizational & Infrastructure Development (iv) Operational Policy Guidelines (v) Policy Guidelines for Service Providers (vi) Incentives, Taxes & Duties (vii) Human Resource Development: Training & Education (viii) Green Aviation Environment (ix) Consumer Protection

Implementation of new National Aviation Policy in March 2015 resulted in exemption of duties on import of aircraft on dry or wet lease, aircraft spare parts, and aircraft simulators. Wet lease period was extended from three months to six months and upto 50% of the fleet capacity. It enabled PIA to induct relatively new aircraft on dry as well as wet lease. PIA’s interests have been looked after on socio-economic and socio-political routes. Airport charges on these routes have been exempted.

The policy allows seven years tax holiday and free land at Pakistani airports to establish an international level MRO (Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul). The policy directs CAA to establish Cargo Villages at major international airports. The policy directs CAA to upgrade and modernize air traffic services infrastructure to improve safety and efficiency. The policy directs CAA to upgrade its international airports to global standards of service and infrastructure. The policy directs CAA to abide by ICAO standards of CO2 emission standards in Pakistan airspace. The policy aims to promote general aviation in the country to create jobs for young pilots, engineers and technicians. The policy directs CAA to restructure its organization to separate its service provider role from regulator. The policy directs CAA to train and develop its human resource to the global best standards achieve the goals of safety, security and efficiency.

The policy also directs CAA to strengthen the function of economic oversight and consumer protection, ensuring air passenger rights in line with ICAO guidelines and various Conventions on the subject. The policy recognizes the fact that airline business is capital intensive and cash intensive, therefore financial crunch, on the part of an operator, could lead to compromises on aircraft maintenance, training and employee compensation. Frequent default on payments to suppliers could result in disruption of operations and inconvenience to the passengers. Therefore, the minimum paid up capital required to obtain an operator’s license was raised for all categories of operators. Principle of reciprocity in bilateral open skies agreements and fares deregulation as envisaged in earlier aviation policies of 1998/2000 have been retained. And last but not the least the policy aims to strengthen CAA’s role as a regulator in aviation safety, security and efficiency in line with ICAO Convention 1944, its annexes and all other relevant documents.

 

The writer is a freelance columnist.