Aviation authorities from the Association of South East Asian Nations members are expected to start their first round of talks on implementing an intra-regional open skies policy after the Asean summit in Bangkok in mid-December.

In a report following a September meeting in Brunei, Asean economics ministers suggested that transport and communications ministers meet to discuss the issue. The transport ministers have not met since 1977 and background talks are under way to prepare for an informal meeting at the Langkawi Air Show in early December. However, one unidentified country, believed to be Indonesia, has 'reserved its position' on joining these talks.

If the Asean transport ministers agree to initiate open skies talks, they are likely to hand the details over to the Asean directors-general of civil aviation. With those discussions expected to run on for more than a year, it will allow the seven Asean member states - Vietnam joined in July - to resist European and US pressure to open up their aviation markets.

So far, Asean aviation chiefs have not adopted a collective position on open skies. Some Asean countries want their own bilateral and regional pacts to be strengthened first: many are outdated, mostly providing for one airline from each country to serve a handful of routes.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand signed a limited open skies deal last November as part of a package to liberalise trade and services in the Growth Triangle area. This could provide a model for a broader intra-Asean pact. Pressure to lift restrictions is coming from some Asean members and the emerging secondary airlines.

Source: Airline Business