Aviation body Iata calls for greater freedom in the skies

'The way this whole industry is structured is unusual,' said chief Tony Tyler.

The chief of the global aviation trade association has called for greater liberalisation of the sector, saying rules in some countries still act as a hindrance for cross-border investment.

Speaking at its global media day in Geneva, Tony Tyler, director general and chief executive of the International Air Transport Association (Iata) said: “The way this whole industry is structured is unusual.

“There is no industry in the world with restrictions on foreign capital so widespread, and you get different countries and different rules for ownership.”

Mr Tyler said that while European countries enjoy freedom of ownership between countries within their block, the requirements are tougher for investors from outside the EU.

“Countries within the European Union can own each other’s airlines without a hindrance,” said Mr Tyler. “You get a British airline owned by a Greek, [such] as easyJet, and operating domestic flights in Spain.”

EU rules stipulate that the majority of an airline’s shares should be owned or controlled by its citizens. Etihad Airways has come under great scrutiny from European rivals over its equity investments in the continent’s carriers. Some European rivals, such as Germany’s Lufthansa, have said that Etihad receives state funds, a claim Etihad has denied.

Unlike other airlines that grow organically, Etihad Airways makes acquisitions of minority stakes in airlines across the globe. Over the past three years Etihad has been acquiring equity stakes in struggling carriers to boost its geographic footprint and connectivity.

This year, Etihad has increased its equity partnerships to eight, including Air Seychelles, airberlin, Virgin Australia, Air Serbia, Ireland’s Aer Lingus, India’s Jet Airways, and Italy’s Alitalia.

It awaits the result of a second review by Swiss aviation regulators over its acquisition of a 33.3 per cent stake in the carrier Darwin, renamed Etihad Regional.

selgazzar@thenational.ae

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Published: December 11, 2014 04:00 AM

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