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ICAO Council adopts core principles on consumer protection and new Long-Term Vision for Air Transport Liberalization



Restrictions on national ownership and control, access, capacity, frequency, and pricing diminish the contribution of aviation to trade, tourism, job creation and economic growth. Although some Arab governments have unilaterally adopted open skies policies, the relations between Arab states is still mostly bound by bilateral agreements mainly covering 3rd and 4th  freedoms of traffic, while there’s a small number of 5th freedom rights granted.


AACO has always been an advocate of liberalization in terms of market access and ownership and control of airlines. In the region, AACO participated in the formation of the Damascus Convention with the Arab Civil Aviation Commission since 2004 and urged states throughout the years to adopt the convention in their bilateral relations with other Arab countries due to the benefits it would bring to the consumer travelling in the region.


Damascus Convention

Liberalization of market access in between Arab states and investments by other Arab states in Arab airlines is still restricted although a starting tool has been developed for such liberalization i.e. the Damascus Convention.


The Damascus Convention is the multilateral agreement for the liberalization of air transport between Arab countries. It was adopted by the Council of Arab Transport Ministers in 2004 where 13 Arab states signed the Convention and entered into force in 2007 after being ratified by 8 states: Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Syria, Yemen, and the UAE.


It covers fundamental principles of liberalization that include market access, ownership and control of airlines, and fair competition. In particular, the Convention covers the following major issues, in addition to others:

  • Market Access: Liberalized within first five Freedoms
  • Fair Competition:
    • States to ensure their policies, practices & laws conform to international agreements
    • Seeks to harmonize competition provisions at multilateral level
    • Non-Discrimination between air carriers
    • Anti-Dumping Policies
    • Anti-Trust Rules
  • Ownership & Control of Carriers: Airlines to be owned by state or nationals or a number of states party to the agreement.


Link to the Text of the Damascus Convention

Link to Resolutions of the Council of Arab Transport Ministers relevant to the Damascus Convention


ICAO Long Term Vision for International AIr Transport Liberalization

In 2015, ICAO has adopted the long-term vision for international air transport liberalization which
states: We, the Member States of the International Civil Aviation Organization, resolve to actively pursue the continuous liberalization of international air transport to the benefit of all stakeholders and the economy at large. We will be guided by the need to ensure respect for the highest levels of safety and security and the principle of fair and equal opportunity for all States and their stakeholders; 


ICAO 40th Assembly
The 2019 Assembly adopted the following with respect to liberalization:

1. Urged all Member States to give regard to, and apply, the ICAO Long-term Vision for International Air Transport Liberalization in policy-making and regulatory practices; 
2. Encouraged Member States to pursue liberalization of market access at a pace and in a manner appropriate to needs and circumstances, giving due regard to the interests of all stakeholders, the changing business environment and infrastructure requirements, as well as to the principles pertaining to safeguard measures designed to ensure the sustained and effective participation of all States, including the principle of giving special consideration to the interests and needs of developing countries;
3. Urged Member States to avoid adopting unilateral and extraterritorial measures that may affect the orderly, sustainable and harmonious development of international air transport and to ensure that domestic policies and legislation are not applied to international air transport without taking due account of its special characteristics; 
4. Urged Member States that have not yet become parties to the IASTA, the Montréal Convention of 1999, the Cape Town Convention and its Protocol and other ICAO instruments governing international air transport to give urgent consideration to so doing; -32- 
5. Urged all Member States to register all agreements and arrangements relating to international civil aviation with ICAO in accordance with Article 83 of the Convention and the Rules for Registration with ICAO of Aeronautical Agreements and Arrangements, to enhance transparency; 
6. Urged Member States to keep the Council fully informed of serious problems arising from the application of air services agreements or arrangements and of any significant developments in the liberalization process; 
7. Urged Member States to give due regard to the distinct features of air cargo services when exchanging market access rights in the framework of air service agreements and grant appropriate rights and operational flexibility so as to promote the development of air cargo services, including those enabling e-commerce; 
8. Urged Member States, in dealing with the issues related to slot allocation and night flight restrictions, to give due consideration to the needs and concerns of other States and make every effort to resolve any concerns through consultation between the parties concerned, in a transparent and nondiscriminatory manner, and to respect and follow the ICAO Balanced Approach principle in regulatory action on aircraft noise management at airports; 
9. Urged Member States and concerned stakeholders to give regard to, and apply, the ICAO high level, non-binding, non-prescriptive core principles on consumer protection in policy-making and regulatory and operational practices, including in case of massive disruptions impacting aviation, and to keep ICAO informed of the experiences gained or issues encountered in their application; 
10. Requested the Council to strongly support the exchange of views and good practices on the application of the ICAO core principles on consumer protection as this effort could help encourage compatibility among national or regional regimes, taking into account the needs of States for flexibility given their social, political and economic characteristics; 
11. Encouraged Member States to continue to make use of and benefit from the ICAO Air Services Negotiation (ICAN) facility, which facilitates and improves the efficiency of their air services negotiations and consultations; 
12. Requested the Council to undertake further work to build a better understanding of the benefits and challenges of liberalization and barriers to opening market access, so that further consideration could be given to the development of a multilateral approach at the appropriate time; 
13. Requested the Council to continue to enhance dialogue and exchange of information with Member States and industry, taking into account the goals of the ICAO Long-term Vision for International Air Transport Liberalization, concerning the past experience and achievements of States, including existing liberalization agreements concluded at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels, as well as the applicability and relevance of the existing multilateral air law treaties, and the various proposals presented during the Sixth Worldwide Air Transport Conference (ATConf/6); 
14. Requested the Council to continue to cooperate with regional and subregional bodies in the examination and development of measures of cooperation, including liberalized arrangements, and the results of these measures, in order to see whether similar or other measures should at the appropriate time be recommended to Member States for application on a wider basis; and -33- 
15. Requested the Council to continue the comparative and analytical study of the policies and practices of Member States in the regulation of international air transport, including the provisions of air services agreements, and to share such information with Member States.




Last updated on November 2019

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