The director general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has called for airlines to be brought under WTO trade rules. Mike Moore, in a letter to UK newspaper The Times on 2 August, says the status quo is "an internationally inefficient, environmentally harmful system" and that present bilateral and multilateral deals have ensured that competition has been stunted, customer service eroded and the poorest countries...given short shrift".

Airlines "benefit most from the international trading system [but] continue to work hard to stay outside the system", says Moore, who leaves the WTO this month. International trade in goods has risen sharply over the last decade, but WTO rules only reached the service sector in 1994, with the General Agreement on Trade in Services - which excluded airlines. This, he argues, has preserved an unfair and inefficient market. "It really is odd that perhaps the most global of industries should remain so protected domestically and even internationally."

In theory, liberalising the airline market could mean ending restrictions on international services and free cabotage for foreign carriers.

Source: Flight International