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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Singapore Airline seeks Australia-US access

Singapore Airlines, in a submission to the government's National Aviation Policy Green Paper, said it believes the international air services policies of past governments have "not adequately balanced competing interests and that this has come at a cost to the tourism industry and consumer generally, through missed opportunities to capitalise on growth".

It singled out the so-called transpacific route between Australia and the US for particular criticism, saying that Australia's regulatory approach "maintains protection for Australian carriers, which is counter to its position of supporting open and free trade elsewhere."

The route is currently dominated by national carrier Qantas Airways and UAL Corp's United Airlines, due to a policy of only allowing Australian and US carriers to fly the route.

The Australian and US governments signed an open-skies agreement, allowing Australian or US-owned airlines to fly freely between the two countries, earlier this year. But the route is still closed to outside players such as Singapore Airlines.

"There is simply not enough competition on the transpacific route, with only Qantas and United Airlines servicing the route directly from Australia and fares are very high and uncompetitive as a result," Singapore Airlines said.

A third carrier, Virgin Blue, is finalising plans to fly between Australia and the US, via its V Australia unit, by the end of the year.

Protecting Qantas' interests is "serving only the interests of Qantas, not Australia's national interest, which depends on tourism growth," Singapore Airlines said.

Qantas operates around 50 services per week between Australia and Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. United Airlines has around 14 weekly services, while Hawaiian Airlines flies three times per week between Honolulu and Sydney.

Singapore Airlines said it is a "long-term player in the Australian market" and has a "keen interest" in developing a strong relationship with the new Australian government.

The airline has long coveted access to the lucrative transpacific route and had hoped a change in government in Australia last November would see a softening of opposition to its ambitions.

Australian Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said in February that his government has no immediate plans to grant foreign carriers access to the Australia to US route and would only consider it if it was deemed in the interests of Australian travellers and the economy.

The Victorian government, in a separate submission, also called on the federal government to grant Singapore Airlines and other "third country" airlines access to the Australia to US route.

It said that, despite the recent open skies agreement with the US, establishing new services to Australia is not a high priority for US airlines. It wants the government to set a timetable for allowing Singapore Airlines and other international carriers access to the route.


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Saturday, May 24, 2008

BA's Paris-New York service opens for business

British Airways risks further undermining its relationship with pilots today as it starts selling tickets for its transatlantic OpenSkies airline.

The Paris-to-New York service will begin flying on June 19 with the threat of crippling industrial action still hanging over its owner.

BA pilots voted overwhelmingly to strike over the new carrier, which they claim is a stalking horse for imposing worse terms and conditions. The British Airline Pilots' Association (Balpa) had appealed to the high court to rule on whether any industrial action was legal - but today dropped the claim. A lawyer for Balpa said it would be "out of its mind" to pursue industrial action.

The airline is BA's riposte to the competitive threat posed by a treaty liberalising transatlantic air travel, also called Open Skies, which allows any EU-based carrier to fly to the US and vice-versa.

OpenSkies officially opened for business this morning by offering tickets on the first Paris Orly to New York JFK flights. It will offer business class flatbed seats at $1,700 (£862) for a one-way journey, with premium economy costing $700 and economy costing $500.

Robert Boyle, BA's commercial director, said OpenSkies, which will fly one plane decorated with BA livery, is a genuine departure from other BA services, starting with the fact that under the old transatlantic flight agreements BA was barred from operating US flights from continental Europe.

The 82-seater Boeing 757 plane will also have a new cabin layout, with the long-term possibility of turning the subsidiary into a business class-only carrier to rival the likes of Silverjet, which operates a first class-only service from Luton airport.

"Our real aim is that we are targeting the premium end of the market," said Boyle, who confirmed that BA will operate the service in tandem with L'Avion, a French business class-only carrier.

BA also warned that negotiations on a second stage of the Open Skies treaty have been a damp squib so far. The European commission wants to build on the first agreement with the lifting of ownership restrictions for EU and US carriers. Currently, an EU carrier can own no more than 25% of a US airline, while a US airline's shareholding in a European counterpart is limited to 49%.

John Wood, BA's negotiator in the Open Skies talks, said: "The US team does not necessarily subscribe to the ambition of a full open aviation area." He added that the first stage of the treaty gave the US carriers everything they wanted, including access to Heathrow airport, and very little to EU airlines.

"We were disappointed that the EU did not get a better deal and we did not find it edifying that both sides are celebrating a 'magnificent' achievement," he said. However, Wood said he was "optimistic" that a deal can be done on ownership following the establishment of the Transatlantic Economic Council, a joint EU-US body that is expected to put pressure on the US to loosen shareholding guidelines.


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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Rudd to push EU for open skies

After a successful US deal, Canberra is pushing Brussels to negotiate an open skies agreement opening up more competitive aviation links between Europe and Australia.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Blue skies for airlines after US-Aussie deal

Australia and the United States have finalised the long-awaited Open Skies Agreement which will allow vast expansion of air travel and competition on the busy trans-Pacific route.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Talks spell 'V' for victory for Virgin Blue

Australia and the US could sign an "open skies" agreement this week that will give Virgin Blue clearance to launch 10 weekly services to the US by the end of this year.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Open skies ends a closed shop

Passengers will soon have more choice over which airline to fly with from Heathrow to the US.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Australia to US flights could quadruple

THE aircraft manufacturer Boeing has predicted air traffic on the Qantas dominated Australia-North America route could nearly quadruple over the next two decades if the route were opened to more competition.

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Singapore says reaches Open Skies air pact with UK

Singapore said on Wednesday it had reached an open skies agreement with the United Kingdom to remove restrictions on air services run by carriers of both countries. (page not found)

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Virgin Blue set to grab a slice of US pie

Virgin Blue's plans to fly to North America have been given a boost after the Australian and US governments announced their intention to "conclude a comprehensive open-skies aviation agreement" early next year.

Footloose Adventure Travel

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Irish carrier gets a head start on open skies

Aer Lingus has been cleared for 'open skies' take-off a year before the rest of the industry.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

EU backing for 'open skies' deal

European Union transport ministers have formally backed the 'open skies' aviation agreement which will ease restrictions on travel between the United States and Europe.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

British Airways Shares Slump on Open-Skies Accord

Shares in British Airways have slumped after the US and the EU tentatively reached its 'open skies' agreement on Friday.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

BA and Virgin knock open sky deal

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have criticised the European Union's 'open skies' deal with the US amid concerns that the deal will favour US carriers.

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