Flying is not a passion for everyone, yet it is the fundamental means of transatlantic travel. From data privacy, to labor laws, and competition regulation, the aviation industry brings to light many of the successes and shortcoming of the EU-US partnership. Since the implementation of the EU-US Open Skies Agreement in 2007, the transatlantic partnership has continuously been tested and forced to revisit the treaty to clarify and elaborate on its original meaning as the aviation market has evolved. Yet, it is also this renewal which furthered the EU-US partnership.
Although ad-hoc to the Open Skies Agreement, data privacy is integral to the transatlantic aviation market. It is also perhaps one of the greatest successes in EU-US negotiations as years of cooperation on both sides led to a preferred outcome. The outcome of these agreements was no simple feat as litigation forced renegotiation after renegotiation.
The common desire to stop terrorism and enhance aviation security, drove the need for a solution and ultimately the Passenger Name Recognition agreement. This in turn facilitated other data agreements, such as the EU-US Privacy Shield, which has furthered transatlantic commerce, while ensuring data privacy for EU citizens.
Not all negotiations have gone smoothly in the agreement. In particular the labor market and labor standards have now come to the forefront in transatlantic aviation. The rise of European low cost carriers has tested the very principles of Open Skies as Norwegian Air International has waited several months for the US DOT to rule on the validity of its Irish operating certificate. The airline has raised the attention of US stakeholders due questionable labor practices. Despite potential compromises, labor laws continue to be an issue. The failure to hold a common labor standard between the EU and US, or even among EU member states has created a shortcoming in that there is no clear commonality. Current and future negotiations, such as TTIP, will need to address labor standards to ensure fair competition and practices. The failure to make progress in this area will certainly lead to stalled talks and failed agreements.
Finally, competition is an area where the transatlantic aviation market varies most and where partnership has the largest room for improvement. The EU arguably hosts greater consumer protection, stronger competition, and more cumbersome regulations than the US. The continuous consolidation of carriers in the US contrasts greatly to the rise of the low-cost carriers in Europe. The separate approval processes for mergers and acquisitions, and differing approaches to subsidies have tested the negotiating powers on both sides. From the ascension of Croatia in the EU to airport landing fees in Italy, the EU-US Joint Committee has continuously and effectively resolved minor discrepancies relating to the Open Skies Agreement. However, the broader competition issues surrounding Norwegian Air and the Gulf Carriers have yet to be resolved.
The transatlantic aviation market has furthered the EU-US partnership in many ways. The successes around data privacy ensure that a mutual solution can be found, even if it takes several years of negotiations. This persistence and ingenuity is also what is needed in reconciling labor law disputes and in guaranteeing competitiveness both in and outside the aviation sector. The Open Skies Agreement provides a framework for successful negotiations because it contains a series of deadlines and a dispute resolution mechanisms that can address market developments. Creating a living treaty ensures that the rules and regulations are constantly revisited, and more importantly that the key stakeholders are brought back to the table. The EU-US partnership should replicate this method as the big challenges require persistence and ingenuity to tackle. Transatlantic aviation will continue to grow, and so should the EU-US partnership.