Island nations scattered across the tropical Pacific have agreed to study whether they should form a single aviation market and negotiate air service agreements as a bloc.

The 14 island nations, which range in size from Papua New Guinea to tiny Tuvalu and span an ocean area larger than western Europe, reached this decision during a meeting of aviation ministers at the South Pacific Forum, a regional organisation that includes every independent Pacific island nation plus Australia and New Zealand.

The idea for a single aviation market comes partly from a regional common market that already embraces the Pacific islands, Australia, and New Zealand for trade purposes. Some aviation ministers view a Pacific-wide bloc as an extension of the single aviation market that exists now between Australia and New Zealand.

Airline officials within the islands have adopted a more sceptical attitude, however, over the single air bloc. The officials disparagingly point out that Australia and New Zealand still negotiate separately with third countries and still disagree between themselves on fifth freedoms.

Within the Pacific islands views also vary on fifth freedoms. Fiji and New Zealand have been quarrelling about them for years, while Samoa has welcomed Air New Zealand's use of fifth freedoms as a way to access US tourists. When wide differences already exist within the Pacific, some observers doubt the region would ever find the common ground to negotiate with other countries as a bloc. The South Pacific Forum secretariat will report back to each nation member after examining the implications of forming a single aviation market.

Source: Airline Business