Air travel: Battling with Russia for open skies
5 November 2010
Dziennik Gazeta Prawna
“European Commission declares war for open sky”, writes Dziennik Gazeta Prawna on the Commission’s plan to make Russia sign an agreement on equal treatment of all EU air carriers. Currently, German, Austrian or Finnish airlines enjoy special treatment from Moscow (i.e. lower fees flying over Russian territory). According to the Commission this constitutes a breach of the main principle of a common market that guarantees the same operating conditions for all EU companies. “The commission thinks that an airline’s right to fly over the Russian territory on its way to China, Japan or South Korea should no longer depend on Vladimir Putin’s mood”, notes the Warsaw daily. But it could be extremely hard to convince Moscow to sign such a deal.
Firstly, because Russia refuses to recognise the Chicago Convention concerning the right to free flight over its territory, it earns some $0.5 billion (€0.35 billion) in airspace permits annually. Another obstacle, according to the Polish daily, could be Vladimir Putin’s “hurt pride”. His ambition was to turn national airline Aeroflot into a key global player, with a takeover of Alitalia allowing the Russian carrier to operate freely on the European market. But that dream was shattered when the Commission blocked the deal. “Today Putin is taking his revenge on the Commission, [blaming it] for the fact that Aeroflot remains a marginal airline”, comments the daily. Meanwhile Brussels, which has completed the implementation of an open skies agreement with the US, is already conducting negotiations on liberalisation of air travel with several other countries including Australia, Brazil and New Zealand.