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CAPA TV | December 2, 2020

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How Would The Airline Industry Operate Under A Free Trade/WTO Framework?

  • On October 15, 2015

From its inception the airline industry has juggled the balance between public interest, national interest and commercial operations. This complex triangle has produced corporate contortions and considerable national angst.
After decades of airline operation within a highly regulated bilateral system, dominated by national “flag carriers”, disruptive operating strategies have pushed LCCs to flying over a third of all global airline seats. But otherwise the old system has remained largely un-disrupted.
More recently there have been numerous suggestions that WTO principles and machinery should be selectively applied to restrain Gulf airline expansion. This is clearly neither logical nor likely to happen.
But it raises the question again of: what would the airline industry look like if WTO principles applied across the board?
The absence of “archaic” bilateral controls, especially those that prevent cross-border ownership, would surely mean a very different industry profile. Some arguments have also raised the suggestion that safety could be compromised if the existing regulatory system was changed – although this would hardly appear insurmountable. The automotive industry has 10 global companies; Uber is disrupting the taxi industry; the hotel industry is a collection of brand aggregations, also with many smaller players; the telecommunications industry was disrupted two decades ago. Where to the airlines?

This panel will attempt to recreate the airline industry from the ground up.
 Are there lessons to be learned from other industries?
 Would mergers be good for consumers; would airlines be more responsive to consumer needs?
 Would there be less – or more – inter-government conflict?
 Are competition authorities adequate to deal with the issues of mergers and acquisitions?
 What are the issues in cross-border mergers, aside from the legalities?
 Would airlines make money and what public services role would they play?
 Regulatory viewpoints on the future of aviation market access
 What is a subsidy?

ModeratorCAPA – Centre for Aviation, Executive Chairman, Peter Harbison
 International Council of Tourism Partners, President, Geoffrey Lipman
 Irish Aviation Authority, CEO Eamonn Brennan
 Lufthansa, VP EU Affairs, Prof Dr Regula Dettling-Ott
 Norwegian CAA, Director, Stein Erik Nodeland
 WTO, Director, Trade in Services Division, Hamid Mamdouh


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