Airbus - world’s fleet will double in 20 years

Article published on October 2013 in Legal Eye and reproduced by courtesy of Stephenson Harwood

In its latest Global Market Forecast in September, Airbus predicted that in the next 20 years the world will need to double the size of its aircraft fleet from 17,740 aircraft to 36,560 aircraft, as a consequence of economic growth, and increased air travel by the affluent
middle classes in fast growing markets, such as India and China. Of the new 29,220 passenger and freight aircraft predicted by Airbus to be
required, worth over £2.7 trillion, 10,400 will replace existing jets with more fuel-efficient models, with aircraft sizes increasing to make the best use of limited airport capacity.

With air travel becoming increasingly accessible in all parts of the world, the growth of the travelling middle classes, and increased
urbanisation, tourism and migration in emerging economies, Airbus predicts that by 2032 two thirds of the population in emerging markets will take at least one flight annually.

Airbus is also predicting that by 2032 domestic flights within China will be the world’s largest airline market, outgrowing the US domestic market, and that the wider Asia-Pacific region will account for 34% of the total distance travelled by fare-paying passengers.

Author: Paul Phillips (Partner, Head of aviation litigation and regulation with Stephenson Harwood) / Publisher: SCMO

EU blacklist labelled absurd

Article published on October 2013 in Legal Eye and reproduced by courtesy of Stephenson Harwood

Following the publication of the latest update to the EU blacklist of foreign carriers in July of this year, which removed Philippine Airlines and Venezuelan carrier Conviasa from the list, Tony Tyler, the Director General of IATA, spoke out again about the lack of transparency in the decision-making process followed by the EU in adding and removing airlines or whole countries to or from the EU blacklist.

In June 2013, Tony Tyler called the EU’s list of banned airlines “absurd” when speaking at the IATA Annual General Meeting in Cape Town, South Africa. Of the 20 countries currently subject to a blanket ban on the EU blacklist, 15 of them are African, and Tyler has warned that the EU’s disproportionate focus on Africa has led many observers to conclude that its blacklist is a mercantile policy masquerading as a safety policy. He says “the point that all the African airlines make – and that we certainly agree with – is that if a government isn’t exercising sufficient regulatory oversight on aviation, then that applies equally to air navigation service, ground services and everything else. So if it’s not safe for the African carrier to operate into Europe, then why is it safe for the European carrier to operate to the African country?”

The EU’s disproportionate focus on Africa has led many observers to conclude that its blacklist is a mercantile policy masquerading as
a safety policy.

IATA takes a different approach, it says, to that taken by the European Commission, by working with countries to put in place IATA operational safety audits (IOSAs), and engage with countries and carriers on the implementation of IOSA training programmes, as opposed to penalising under-performing airlines. In calling for greater transparency, Tyler said “There are no clear guidelines on what you have to do to get off the banned list...or, indeed how exactly you got on it. In America, the FAA says you’re Category 2, then it identifies what
particular tests you have failed, or what you’re not doing properly, but in Europe there is no checklist. There are no specifications about what standards they want.”

In a thinly veiled reference to the EU’s unilateral imposition of its own emissions trading scheme on foreign carriers, Tyler said:

“ICAO does its own inspections of the regulatory authorities and helps them lift their game where necessary. But Europe is going off on its own again, as it seems to love doing in this industry.”

Author: Paul Phillips (Partner, Head of aviation litigation and regulation with Stephenson Harwood) / Publisher: SCMO

Holding pattern for EU Airports Package

Article published on October 2013 in Legal Eye and reproduced by courtesy of Stephenson Harwood

The progress of the European Commission’s EU Airports Package, which was published in December 2011 to address issues on slots, ground-handling, and noise, has stalled. The European Parliament has approved all three elements of the package of legislation, with some substantive amendments, at First Reading stage, but the European Council has not.


The slots proposal was amended and approved at first reading by the European Parliament on 12 December 2012. The Parliament made some changes to the Commission’s original proposal, maintaining the current ratio of the use it or lose it rule at 80:20, and reduced the Commission’s proposal for the qualifying length for a series of slots from 15 to 5 in Summer and 10 to 5 in Winter. The amendments are now with the European Council for consideration. The rumours coming out of Brussels are that the text of the proposed new Slot Regulation is
not agreed and that it is becoming increasingly uncertain whether a new Slot Regulation will be required at all.

One ongoing concern for airlines is that the European Commission and Parliament are resentful that airlines have control of their own slots, and that they (the EU legislature) may reserve the right to tackle the issue of who should own slots at a later date. This issue is of particular concern because airlines have capitalised the value of their slots as assets in their balance sheets, so any indication of an attempt by EU legislators to introduce measures to change slot ownership has to be monitored carefully.


The proposed increase in the minimum number of ground handling companies given licences to operate at large airports is politically very sensitive, with the German ground-handlers’ unions, particularly at Frankfurt and Munich airports, exerting considerable lobbying pressure on MEPs.

The European Commission proposed an increase in groundhandlers at large airports from 2 to 3 at airports with more than 5 million passengers per annum. The Rapporteur for the TRAN Committee of the European Parliament, Polish MEP, Arthur Zasada, proposed in his working report to the TRAN Committee an increase in groundhandlers from 2 to 4 at qualifying airports. The TRAN Committee rejected this proposal, requiring the Rapporteur to significantly amend his report and find a compromise with the demands of the Employment Committee of the European Parliament. The text that was adopted by the TRAN Committee in March 2013 proposed a smaller increase in groundhandlers from 2-3 only at airports with over 15 million passengers per annum over a 10 year period. The TRAN Committee also proposed more stringent social terms and conditions and protection of employment conditions. These revised recommendations have been narrowly voted through the first reading of the European Parliament, but have not been voted on yet by the European Council – where there are reported to be significant differences of opinion. The timeline for the European Council to vote on this proposed new Regulation is unclear.


The proposed new noise Regulation is far less controversial than the proposed groundhandling Regulation. The European Parliament agreed on amendments on 12 December 2012 but approval by Council is still pending.

The current EU Lithuanian Presidency did not include the Airports Package in the European Council work plan for its six month Presidency of the EU, which expires in December 2013, which is why progress on the Airports Package has stalled at Council level. The EU Transport Commissioner, Vice President Siim Kallas, wants to have the Airports Package adopted in full, and there has been no move by the European Commission to disaggregate the three component parts of the Package, so the three draft Regulations in their current state look set to stagnate until the Greek Presidency takes over in January 2014.

The Greek Presidency has not yet said whether it is going to prioritise the Airports Package, but if it does, it will face political difficulties in pushing the proposed new groundhandling regulations through. It seems likely that it will not prioritise this package of regulations until after the European Parliament elections have taken place in May next year.

Author: Paul Phillips (Partner, Head of aviation litigation and regulation with Stephenson Harwood) / Publisher: SCMO

Merger creates the world’s largest airline

Article published on October 2013 in Legal Eye and reproduced by courtesy of Stephenson Harwood

The filing of an anti-trust suit by the US Department of Justice back in August to block the merger of American Airlines and US Airways on grounds that it would eliminate competition, reduce route choices, and raise prices, looked as though it would, at worst, completely derail the merger or, at best, delay the process by several months.

The DoJ’s blocking move seemed to represent a seismic shift in its attitude to consolidation in the US airline industry, which it has generally approved in recent years. It was also in stark contrast to the more relaxed stance of the European Commission, which approved the merger in double-quick time, albeit with minor conditions.

US Airways and AMR Corporation, AA’s parent company, that has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since November 2011, responded aggressively to the DoJ’s announcement, saying it would mount a “strong and vigorous defence” of its plans for the US$11 billion merger. Both US Airways and AA pointed to the advantages of the wave of consolidation over recent years in the US airline industry that has cut the number of large carriers in the US market from eight down to five, and how the reduction in cut-throat competition had enabled the consolidated airlines to operate more profitably and improve services for consumers.

In explaining its position, the DoJ maintained that it had learned important lessons from the 2008 merger of Delta and Northwest Airlines, and the 2010 merger between United and Continental, and were not convinced that the AA – US Airways merger would improve the lot of consumers further. Assistant Attorney General, Bill Baer, said that both US Airways and AA were in a position to be “competitive, aggressive and successful on their own, and that passengers would suffer if the merger was allowed to proceed”. The DoJ focused on how the merger would affect travellers from Washington’s Reagan National Airport, from which the merged airlines would have controlled 63% of nonstop flights, and on the fact that four US airlines would control over 80% of all US commercial flights.

Baer observed “If this merger goes forward, even a small increase in the price of airline tickets, checked bags or flight change fees would result in hundreds of millions of dollars of harm to American consumers.” He did not, however, rule out alternative ideas to a straightforward merger block, in order to preserve competition.

Faced with the prospect of unpicking what would be a very complex merger, which US Airways and AMR Corporation had been planning for over a year, and a costly and time-consuming anti-trust trial scheduled to start on 25 November, settlement negotiations were initiated to try and break the legal deadlock, and the parties agreed to consult a court appointed mediator.

On 12 November 2013, AMR and US Airways announced that they had settled the litigation with the Department of Justice, challenging the merger. Under the terms of the settlement the airlines will divest 52 pairs of slots at Washington Reagan National Airport and 17 pairs of slots at New York LaGuardia Airport, as well as certain gates and related facilities to support services at those airports. The airlines will also divest two gates and related support facilities at Boston Logan International Airport, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas Love Field, Los Angeles International and Miami International airports. The divestitures will take place through a DoJ approval process following the
completion of the merger. As part of the settlement agreement with the Department of Justice, the newly merged airline group has agreed to maintain its hubs in Charlotte, New York (JFK), Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago O’Hare, Philadelphia and Phoenix, in line with its historical operations, for a period of three years. In spite of the enforced divestitures, the new American Airlines Group Inc., as the combined airline will be called, is still expected to generate more than US$1 billion in annual net synergies from the merger, beginning in 2015.

Commenting on the settlement of the litigation and the approval of the merger, Bill Baer said that the airlines’ agreement to divest slots at key airports will allow low-cost carriers to expand and “will disrupt today’s cosy relationships among the incumbent legacy carriers and provide consumers with more choices and more competitive airlines”.

This agreement has the potential to shift the landscape of the airline industry

The settlement was approved by the US Bankruptcy Court on 27 November 2013, and Judge Sean Lane advised that the merger should be completed “without delay”. American Airlines and US Airways were planning to close their merger by 9 December 2013.

The US Attorney General, Eric Holder, commenting on the approved merger said:

“This agreement has the potential to shift the landscape of the airline industry. By guaranteeing a bigger foothold for low-cost carriers at key US airports, this settlement ensures airline passengers will see more competition on nonstop and connecting routes throughout the country.”

Author: Paul Phillips (Partner, Head of aviation litigation and regulation with Stephenson Harwood) / Publisher: SCMO

Technology to counter future volcanic ash crisis

Article published on October 2013 in Legal Eye and reproduced by courtesy of Stephenson Harwood

Between 15 April and 21 April 2010, Europe experienced an unprecedented closure of its airspace, with over 100,000 flights cancelled, and an estimated 10 million passengers affected over a period of seven days. Airlines based in Northern Europe had all of their aircraft grounded as a result of airport closures, and overall, the European airline industry had 75% of its operations closed at the peak of the ash plume. It was catastrophic.

Three days into the crisis, as European airspace remained closed, several of the major carriers protested that national civil aviation authorities and Eurocontrol were acting too cautiously in maintaining the flight ban. Several airlines conducted their own test flights in the last two days of the crisis, including Air France-KLM and Lufthansa, and found the atmosphere to be clear.

Since the volcanic ash crisis, Airbus and Nicarnica Aviation have been developing technology for the fitting of sensors to aircraft for the detection and the measurement of the density of ash clouds, so that pilots can avoid them.

In an extraordinary experiment conducted on 13 November 2013, a tonne of volcanic ash, collected and dried from the 2010 Eyjafjallajokul eruption by the Institute of Earth Sciences in Iceland, was flown to Toulouse, then carried in an A400M Airbus aircraft and released at between 9,000-11,000 feet over the Bay of Biscay, to simulate conditions consistent with the volcanic ash cloud in 2010. easyJet then flew an Airbus A340-300 fitted with Airborne Volcanic Object Identifier and Detector (AVOID) sensors developed by Nicarnica Aviation towards the ash cloud, and successfully identified the ash from distances of 60 km, as well as accurately measuring its concentration. The tonne of volcanic ash released was apparently measured at 2.8km in diameter and was visible to the naked eye, but quickly dissipated, becoming difficult to identify.

Aircraft fitted with AVOID sensors would be able to feed back information to the ground in any future volcanic ash eruption, giving real time data to enable an accurate picture of the location and size of ash clouds to be built up, as well as their density, which would inform decisions on the ground as to whether airspace needs to be closed.

easyJet is planning to fit several of its aircraft with AVOID sensors by the end of 2014, so that if, and when, the Icelandic volcanoes erupt again, they will be able to argue coherently with national civil aviation authorities in the EU that it is not necessary to impose a blanket no-flight ban and shut down large areas of European airspace.

Author: Paul Phillips (Partner, Head of aviation litigation and regulation with Stephenson Harwood) / Publisher: SCMO