BELGIUM AND Switzerland have clashed with the European Commission (EC) over services between their countries, even before the Swissair/Sabena alliance gets under way.

European competition commissioner Karel Van Miert is warning Switzerland that approval of the deal will require it to obey EC competition rules.

The row blew up when the Belgian Government refused permission for Belgian carriers VLM and EuroBelgian Airlines to begin scheduled services between Antwerp or Brussels and Switzerland. The airlines made their applications following the signing of the Swissair/Sabena deal, which is intended to allow Swissair improved access to European Union destinations.

The Government rejected the bids, ruling that "...the air links between Belgium and Switzerland are a legal monopoly held by the national airline, Sabena".

Van Miert, however, promptly announced that "...other airlines should be allowed to fly to Switzerland", cautioning that, "...when Sabena and Swissair seek EC approval of their alliance, they will have to comply with EC competition rules."

He added that by gaining access to EC airspace through Sabena, Switzerland will have to open its own airspace and allow other airlines to fly to Zurich and Geneva.

Source: Flight International