High passenger traffic calls for a more united Asean aviation industry

According to IDEAS CEO, aviation plays a vital role for trade in the Asean region


The aviation market needs to amalgamate further into a single establishment, especially with the recent spur of passenger traffic growth in the industry throughout South-East Asia.

The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) said such a concept could materialise via the Asean Single Aviation Market (ASAM), a component of the Asean Economic Community Blueprint 2025.

In a policy paper released recently, IDEAS said based on integration efforts so far, there has been an impressive increase in the growth of passenger traffic within Asean, which has led to the region being identified as one of the busiest air traffic routes in the world.

OAG Aviation Worldwide Ltd earlier in May this year named the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore (KUL-SIN) route as the worldís busiest international air route, while the International Air Transport Association recently announced that KUL-SIN is among the top five international/ regional passenger airports as global air travellers exceeded four billion last year, the first time airlines carried that many humans.

Asean has been looked upon at a higher level of integration, whereby further steps need to be taken before the vision of having a single aviation market (SAM) comes to life.

IDEAS CEO Ali Salman (picture) said aviation plays a vital role for trade in the region, including facilitating the rapid growth in e-commerce.

He added that there is further to go to fully realise the full potential of a SAM.

“The potential prize is significant is greater business connectivity and trade, more tourism and lower prices for consumers. Asean needs to step up their game in advancing the ASAM agenda. The intra-Asean total trade itself reached US$543.75 billion (RM2.26 trillion) in 2016.

“This proves that Asean has a significant potential to benefit from an SAM policy in terms of trade between Asean member countries. It is time for Asean countries to stay the course and remain committed to realising the dream of a unified and single regional aviation market,” Ali said.

The policy paper is authored by Dr Jae Woon Lee, an aviation expert and assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong Law School is made some recommendations to take full advantage of the potential of the ASAM.

He said national regulators should meet regularly to oversee a harmonisation of safety rules and standards, including accelerating the mutual recognition agreements.

Echoing the point, Ali said there is a need for DGs of all Asean member states’ Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to meet formally at least once a year to discuss regulatory and technical matters, before establishing a formal working group to oversee the harmonisation of standards within Asean.

“DGs of Asean CAA require a regular platform to move forward with the implementation of the ASAM policy. Such meetings will allow more in-depth discussions and efficient execution,” he said.

Other recommendations include Asean members to take a pragmatic approach in delegating air traffic management to allow more “seamless skies”, liberalising ownership and control of airlines and expanding the freedom for airlines to operate within the region.

The paper also recommended that Asean members negotiate with partners, concluding an agreement with the European Union and further expanding freedom with China by the end of this year.

ASAM, also known as the Asean Open Sky Agreement/Policy, is the regionís major aviation policy and was proposed by the Asean Air Transport Working Group during the 13th Asean Summit in November 2007.

The agreement is a concept that promotes the freedom available for movement of persons and cargo by air within or across countries, and is geared towards the development of a unified and SAM among Asean members in South-East Asia.

ASAM has been fully ratified by member states in April 2016, but the implementation of actual freedom so far remains slow.