International aviation

Plane wing

Aviation’s international nature means that there are few areas, apart from airport development, in which the UK is free – or can effectively – make policy in isolation from other countries. Most new aviation legislation now originates at the European Union (EU) level; and in the air traffic management field, through EUROCONTROL, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation. On wider European issues we co-operate closely with the 40 other countries in the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC). Globally, we co-operate with the 188 signatories to the Chicago Convention, working through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Bilateral treaties

Air services to non-EU countries are subject to a complex web of bilateral treaties known as Air Services Agreements (ASAs). The Department is responsible for managing existing ASAs and negotiating new ones. ASAs restrict the number and type of services that can be operated. The UK generally seeks to open up and liberalise these agreements so as to enable airlines to operate competitively. The EU is taking an increasing role in this area.

In negotiating and managing bilateral arrangements, the objective of the Department for Transport’s International Aviation and Safety Division (IASD) is to increase consumer benefits by permitting the operation of a wider range of services. This involves negotiating traffic rights from more airports in the UK to more destinations abroad, gaining access for more airlines to compete on routes which are already served and allowing airlines to compete on price.

IASD aims for agreements which provide airlines the freedom to set their own fares, provided that they are pro-competitive and which do not limit the number of airlines or frequencies on routes to be served, so leaving airlines free to mount the capacity they believe to be appropriate to serve the market.

UK Policy on international air services

International Aviation Negotiations (IAN) Division is responsible for the day-to-day management of bilateral aviation relations between the UK and other states. This involves enforcing existing bilateral arrangements, issuing permits to non-EU foreign airlines serving the UK and negotiating new bilateral arrangements where necessary.

The UK’s policy on air services is to achieve the maximum economic freedom for airlines, consistent with the principles of competition law, so as to create a level playing field and deliver the greatest benefits to passengers and shippers.

UK, European and international and aviation organisations