The European Court of Justice (ECJ) recently found that – in the context of Article 5 of EU Regulation 261/2004, which can exempt air carriers from their obligation to compensate passengers – a collision between an aircraft and a bird may constitute extraordinary circumstances. The ECJ adopted a divergent approach in its decision that appears to disregard the EU advocate general's 2016 opinion regarding the same case.
As part of its ambitious aviation strategy, the European Commission has proposed harmonising European drone rules. The Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research Joint Undertaking recently unveiled U-Space – a blueprint on the use of drones in low-level airspace. The European Aviation Safety Agency is seeing to it that U-Space has rules that ensure the safe integration of drones into the airspace.
The European Commission recently announced its proposal to amend the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, with the aim of contributing to EU climate objectives regarding the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. Although the emission and compensation criteria have not yet been clearly defined, according to this new scheme, there will be three main phases to implement the measures set out by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
Private aviation in Europe will soon be subject to heightened regulatory standards following the implementation of EU Regulation 800/2013. Operators of complex motor-powered aircraft for non-commercial operations must comply with the new regulation standards from August. Aircraft financiers should consider how this affects their investment in these aircraft and whether action needs to be taken to mitigate any potential adverse exposure.
The highly charged aviation emissions issue will reach a critical crossroads at the next International Civil Aviation Organisation assembly in 2016. If no agreement on a global emissions reduction scheme is reached, the European Union may reintroduce the full-scope EU Emissions Trading Scheme covering all flights within, to and from the European Union, which could have wide-ranging consequences for aircraft operators and owners.
The EU Blacklist lists airlines that are banned from operating in the European Union and those that are permitted to operate in the European Union only under specific conditions. In recent years it seems to have shifted from banning individual airlines to banning countries – potentially in a bid to pressure national civil aviation authorities to enforce their oversight responsibilities.
Passengers have begun to refer to the ruling in Sturgeon by the European Court of Justice while complaining on the basis of the EU Denied Boarding Regulation. This raises new issues for airlines, which are already facing difficult times. Some passengers have started to claim compensation for long delays, while other significant developments relate to the definition of the term 'cancellation'.
By lifting nationality restrictions in air services agreements and creating new scope for consolidation, the EU-US Open Skies Agreement will pave the way for the global airlines that are needed to combat high fuel prices and increase efficiency. However, innovative solutions are required to overcome the hurdles of nationality of ownership, competition and regulatory rules that remain.
The Open Skies Agreement between the European Union and the United States is expected to lead to fewer European airlines, increased transatlantic services and lower fares due to increased competition. National carriers stand to lose their grip on their all-important domestic airports, while the opportunity to fly from smaller, cheaper airports is rumoured to have attracted the attention of low-cost airlines.
Last year the European Commission adopted a communication outlining its plan to reduce air travel's growing contribution to climate change. On July 4 2006 the European Parliament voted in favour of the proposed measure and proposed to set up an emissions trading scheme specific to the aviation sector with the aim of merging it with the EU Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme.
The European Commission has launched a consultation in order to simplify the regulatory framework of the market for the distribution of airline tickets. A proposal has yet to be made, but the commission is evaluating the extent to which market evolution justifies the maintenance of specific rules as opposed to relying on the general competition rules in the European Union.
The EU Denied Boarding Regulation has come into effect. The new rights, widening the scope of passenger compensation, were warmly welcomed by consumer bodies. However, the same cannot be said of the airlines operating in and from the European Union, and there are good policy reasons why delays for pro-safety reasons should not routinely result in what airlines see as disproportionate penalties.
The question of whether Eurocontrol, the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation, is subject to EU competition policy - in particular Article 82, which forbids the abuse of a dominant position by an undertaking - is controversial. An action has been brought against the European Commission asking for its earlier rejection of a competition complaint against Eurocontrol to be annulled or amended.
A regulation introducing an EU-wide list of airlines that do not meet common safety requirements (and are thus banned from operating throughout the European Union), and strengthening the information given to passengers on the identity of their air carriers, has now been adopted.
In February 2005 the European Commission published a proposal for a regulation requiring the provision of safety information to air passengers and the exchange of information on airline safety between member states. The European Parliament is due to vote on a revised, more audacious proposal from the European Parliament Transport Committee on November 15, and a final text should be adopted on December 5.
The International Air Transport Association and the European Low-Fares Airline Association have challenged the validity of the EU Denied Boarding Regulation, which aims to raise the standards of protection for air passengers and ensure air carriers conducting business in the European Union operate under harmonized conditions. However, success looks doubtful as the advocate general has rejected their arguments.
The European Commission has published draft guidelines setting out the conditions under which airports may receive public financing and offer start-up aid to airlines launching new routes. While the use of regional airports can boost regional development and reduce congestion at major airports, the commission wants to ensure equality of treatment between airport operators and between airlines.
From May 1 2005 EU law will require that all air carriers and aircraft operators flying to, from, within or over the European Union meet with specified minimum levels of insurance cover in respect of passengers, baggage, cargo and (except in limited circumstances) third-party liabilities.
The new EU Aviation Regulation empowers the European Commission to take rapid retaliatory action against non-EU airlines that receive subsidies or indulge in unfair pricing to the detriment of the EU aviation industry. The preferred remedy is a duty, analogous to an anti-dumping duty, to be levied on the carrier concerned.