News in brief from across the globe... This week, the US government unveiled enhanced security measures to protect incoming foreign flights so as to avoid an expanded carry-on laptop ban, while Qatar has threatened to sue for the losses it is incurring as a result of its ongoing airspace dispute with neighbouring states. 

Americas

⇒ The US Department of Homeland Security has confirmed a host of enhanced security measures on incoming foreign flights, so as to avoid expanding its existing ban on large carry-on electronic devices. The measures, which will mostly come into effect in three weeks, require airport security officials to conduct enhanced screening of passengers and implement new detection systems to monitor carry-on electronic devices for possible explosives. The measures will affect 180 airlines from 280 airports in 105 countries. US Department of Homeland Security secretary John Kelly said: “We expect all airlines will work with us to keep their aircraft, their crew and their passengers safe... Inaction is not an option.” He said airlines that fail to meet these new security requirements could be compelled to comply with a carry-on electronics ban. Homeland Security officials separately told Reuters that they expected more than 99% of airlines to comply with the new rules, which would effectively bring an end to the existing electronics ban. The UK, meanwhile, has confirmed that it too has implemented similar enhanced security measures.

American Airlines confirmed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on 22 June that it has received an unsolicited offer from Qatar Airways to buy at least $808 million in stock, equating to a 10% share in the carrier. Due to the size of the transaction, Qatar Airways also filed the potential deal with antitrust agencies, which will have to greenlight any potential sale. American Airlines board would have to approve the acquisition too. The move comes as American Airlines and other US carriers continue to accuse the big three Gulf airlines of unfair competition. The US carrier said the proposal does not alter its “conviction on the need to enforce the Open Skies agreements with the United Arab Emirates and the nation of Qatar and ensure fair competition with Gulf carriers, including Qatar Airways. American Airlines continues to believe that the president and his administration will stand up to foreign governments to end massive carrier subsidies that threaten the US aviation industry and that threaten American jobs.” American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker said of the potential deal: “Puzzling at best and concerning at worst... While anyone can purchase our shares in the open market, we aren’t particularly excited about Qatar’s outreach.”

⇒ New US Federal Aviation Administration deputy administrator Dan Elwell was sworn in this week as the agency’s second highest-ranking official. Responsible for aviation safety and air traffic control services, he returns to the FAA after serving as assistant administrator for policy, planning and environment between 2006 and 2008. FAA administrator Michael Huerta said: “Dan’s insight and experience will serve the FAA and public well. He has a strong background as a military and civilian pilot, as well as holding key leadership positions within the aerospace industry.” Elwell recently served as senior advisor on aviation to US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

⇒ GTDT Aviation Law News sister publication Global Competition Review reports that the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit brushed off an objection to the Transpacific Passenger Air Transportation antitrust litigation settlement on 26 June, upholding Judge Charles Breyer’s final approval of the class, with Judge Johnnie Rawlinson dissenting from the rest of the appellate panel. She agreed with the objector that the lower court ought to have divided class members whose claims are legally vulnerable – under the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act, or Illinois Brick – away from domestic-flying direct purchasers.

⇒ Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría in Santiago has advised CDB Aviation Lease Finance on the lease of three new aircraft to Chilean airline Jetsmart, reports GTDT Aviation Law News sister publication Latin Lawyer. The carrier, which was set up in 2016, sought counsel from Del Rio Izquierdo Abogados in Santiago. The first of the Airbus A320 aircraft was delivered on 14 June. Clifford Chance’s New York office is understood to have advised CDB Aviation Lease Finance.

Europe

⇒ Fernando Pinto, president of TAP Portugal, has said the country’s authorities should consider grounding all drones after one of the flag carrier’s aeroplanes narrowly avoiding colliding with a drone on its approach to Lisbon Portela Airport. If drones “keep entering airspace, we’re going to call for them to be grounded”, he said, adding that such a request could even set off an unlikely “worldwide movement” against unmanned aerial vehicles, AP reports. “Due to the irresponsible behaviour of some – and I’m speaking in a European and global context – [drones] are being used very badly, in a very dangerous way, and that worries us,” he said.

⇒ The Irish Commission for Aviation Regulation has ordered Aer Southeast to suspend selling tickets for flights to the UK, after a probe by the authority revealed that the carrier does not have the requisite tour operator’s licence.

Middle East and Africa

Qatar Airways has said it is documenting the losses it has suffered as a result of its ongoing dispute with Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, with a view to pursuing damages claims once the dust has settled, Bloomberg reports. Chief executive Akbar al Baker said Qatar Airways is “making sure that all our business streams are properly documented in order for us in future to go to international tribunals to reflect the pain” the carrier has incurred through additional operating costs due the surrounding airspace blockade. He also expressed his dissatisfaction with International Civil Aviation Organization’s response to the blockade, which he characterised as an illegal action. “They [ICAO] have been slow. But those countries have people on the board. We are now waiting two weeks with this situation and nobody has upheld international law.”

⇒ Meanwhile, Reuters has reported that ICAO will host a special hearing on 30 June, following a request by Qatar, to consider reopening areas of Gulf airspace that have been closed as part of the diplomatic crisis. Qatari transport minister Jassim Saif Al Sulaiti said the Gulf state was looking to “get more routes for Qatar” and wants ICAO to open international air routes currently managed by the UAE.

Asia-Pacific

⇒ India’s government has approved proposals to privatise Air India, according to Reuters. Finance minister Arun Jaitley said the country’s cabinet had agreed “in principle” to the sale of a stake in the debt-riddled carrier on 22 June. The decision marks the first of several procedural requirements before the carrier can be sold.