By David Field in Montreal

The Canadian government is being urged to negotiate open sky agreements with more nations including the European Union (EU).

Increased traffic flows from Europe arising from more open markets would boost the hopes of major Canadian airports such as Toronto to become transit points for passengers between Europe and both Latin America and the USA.

Pierre Jeanniot, the former Air Canada head who is director general emeritus of IATA, told an ICAO/Airports Council International conference in Montreal in late June that a single blanket Canada/EU agreement would replace 25 individual bilateral agreements, giving Canada access to a market of 450 million potential travellers. For its part, Europe would make major progress towards its goal of a common transatlantic aviation market.

A similar plea came from Canadian Airports Council president Jim Facette, who praised the government for reaching liberal agreements with China, India and Portugal in the past two years, along with open skies agreements with the USA and the UK. But he pointed out: "Most of Canada's air service agreements currently are far too restrictive."

Facette added: "While Canada now has two open skies agreements, the US has 75 of them. Reticence by other nations to open their markets plays a big role in the problem but the Canadian government also has held on to its old fashioned ideas about air policy for far too long. We are hopeful that this is now changing."

He pointed out Canada has restrictive bilaterals with South Korea and Japan, key sources of tourists for the country, and does not have any bilaterals with some key countries such as Singapore or South Africa. Canadian passenger traffic on non-US international routes still soared by 120% since 1991, far outpacing domestic growth.

Jeanniot insisted any such major liberalisation must include an end to the citizenship restrictions that now require majority Canadian or US ownership of an airline.

"Airlines have been a prime engine of international trade, growth and deregulation," he said, "yet they're still very regulated themselves." ■

Source: Airline Business