EUROPEAN TRAVEL POLICY, 1 July 2002

EUROPEAN TRAVEL POLICY – INSTANT NEWS ON TRAVEL POLICY IN EUROPE

INTERLINING OF AIR FARES SET TO CONTINUE

EUROPEAN TRAVEL POLICY, 1 July 2002

EU airlines may continue to consult each other on scheduled passenger fares which allow their customers to “interline” with other airlines for all or part of their journeys, the European Commission has announced. The new permission applies until 30 June 2005 and takes the form of an EU regulation.

However, there are signs that the Commission is beginning to question the need for these consultations in the longer term. In its announcement of the new regulation, it said it had asked airlines to collect data on the use of interlining fares so as to show the extent to which “such price-fixing agreements still make sense in a market increasingly characterised by global airline alliances”. The Commission intends to use this information when it comes to decide what should happen after June 2005.

Airlines’ consultations on fares take place at passenger tariff conferences which are organised several times a year by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Although these conferences involve price fixing and, as such, are a restriction of competition, they are currently exempted from EU anti-trust rules because of the benefits that interlining brings to travellers. The new regulation provides for the continuation of this exemption for Europe, covering all flag carriers in the European Economic Area (the EU member states plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and a number of regional airlines.

Interlining occurs when a passenger is carried for part or all of his journey by an airline other than the one he booked with. It allows passengers to travel with different airlines on different legs of their journey (with one ticket). It also allows those passengers with “fully flexible” tickets to switch airlines at any time during their trip (for example if they miss their flights). A recent Commission consultation drew responses from member states, airlines, travel agents and consumer groups arguing strongly that the current system offered passenger benefits that no alternative, less restrictive systems were likely, at present, to be able to match. The common view was that without the passenger tariff conferences, “consumers would have a smaller choice of flexible fares and smaller airlines might have fewer interlining opportunities and, as a result, find it harder to compete”.

The new regulation also extends the current exemption for airport scheduling by one more year until 30th June 2005. This exemption ties in closely with an EU regulation setting out rules for slot allocation at airports in the EU. Together, these two measures set out the conditions under which air carriers can take part in the scheduling conferences at which slots at congested airports are allocated.

EUROPEAN INVESTMENT BANK SUPPORT FOR TRANSPORT PROJECTS

EUROPEAN TRAVEL POLICY, 1 July 2002

The European Investment Bank has announced loans for new transport infrastructure projects in Italy, Denmark, Sweden and Croatia. It is lending Euro 450 million to the upgrading of the Florence-Bologna section of the A1 toll motorway in Italy. This is a strategic project forming part of the Trans-European road network. A loan of 380 million Swedish kronor (Euro 42 million) will help the Skåne region of Sweden buy new trains for the Öresund fixed link between Denmark and Sweden. This is a priority Trans-European Network route between Malmö and Copenhagen that opened in July 2000. Two further loans will help to ease traffic congestion in both the Gothenburg and Stockholm areas. The first of these – Euro 65 million – will upgrade a busy urban road in the centre of Gothenburg. The second one – for Euro 174 million – is the third phase of EIB support for the southern link of the Stockholm ring road. Euro 60 million EIB loan is also being provided to help with the construction of the last two sections of the Rijeka to Zagreb motorway in Croatia. This motorway links the country’s capital city with its main port and contributes to Croatia’s integration with the EU and its neighbouring countries.

MARITIME TRANSPORT – FRANCE, IRELAND AND SPAIN IN THE EU DOCK

EUROPEAN TRAVEL POLICY, 1 July 2002

The Commission is to take France and Ireland to the European Court of Justice because of their failure to enforce legislation on the state control of vessels in their ports. The two countries are charged with not meeting their obligations under the 1995 directive on port state control which requires them to inspect at least 25% of the ships entering the ports of a member state. The aim of this directive is to reduce “drastically” the number of substandard ships in EU waters.

The Commission is taking Spain to the ECJ on charges of restricting the freedom to provide maritime transport services in the Vigo estuary in Galicia. It says the Spanish restrictions infringe the EU maritime cabotage regulation of 1992 which applies “the principle of freedom to provide services to maritime transport within member states”. The current rules are, according to the Commission, more restrictive than those in force when the EU regulation took effect in January 1993 and favour the existing Spanish operator in the estuary.

CALL FOR RAPID IMPLEMENTATION OF NEW MARITIME SAFETY LEGISLATION

EUROPEAN TRAVEL POLICY, 1 July 2002

European Commission vice-president responsible for transport, Loyala de Palacio, has called on member states to implement new EU maritime safety legislation quickly. The two measures – the directive on the monitoring of maritime traffic and the regulation setting up a Maritime Safety Agency – were approved by EU transport ministers on 17 June (see European Travel Policy of 17 June) and have been formally adopted by the European Parliament. De Palacio said: ‘In less than three years, Europe has greatly improved legislation on maritime safety. We now have the means to protect our coastlines more effectively against substandard ships. … The European states must now complete this effort by applying European law as soon as possible.’

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