News in brief from around the world… The UK is cracking down on drunken behaviour on planes and airlines in the US are asking the government to hold off on legislating to reduce aircraft noise. Meanwhile Croatian air workers’ strikes have been found to be illegal and Qatar Airways has been held liable for trying to influence an Australian travel agents’ behaviour. 

Europe

⇒ The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on 15 August called for an increase in prosecutions to “crack down” on violent and drunken behaviour by airline passengers.

Citing over 200 incident reports about disruptive passengers from UK airlines in 2018 prior to the summer season, the CAA said it would “work closely” with the industry and government to ensure that “better use” is made of the laws already in place to deal with this kind of behaviour.

Offenders can be changed with specific offences of being drunk on board an aircraft and for acting in a disruptive manner. Smoking and failing to obey commands of the captain can result in a fine or imprisonment, while charges of endangering the safety of an aircraft can result in jail time of up to five years.

 “Criminal charges should be brought against offenders more often to act as a deterrent - passengers need to know they will face the full weight of the law should they be found guilty of disorderly behaviour,” Richard Stephenson, director of the CAA, said in a statement.

⇒ A county court in Zagreb ruled on 9 August that a strike planned by the ORCA union at flag carrier Croatia Airlines was illegal.

In a press release, the airline said that the ruling “prohibited the union from organising and conducting the strike scheduled to start on the 8th August 2018 until such time demands are granted”. Reuters reported that the trade union had temporarily called off the strike at the request of the court.

Croatia Airlines told ALN that taking legal action against the strikes was “not about restricting the trade union’s right to call a strike, but about an isolated case of poor management of collective negotiations, culminating in an attempt to call a strike in the middle of the tourist season” and that they expect the union to appeal the ruling.

“In a situation where the said trade union explicitly states that they do not want to negotiate with the current Management Board, it is clear that the negotiations were not conducted in good faith, and that there was no legitimate reason to call a strike,” the airline added.

The airline said (in Croatian) on 3 August that the union had voted to strike, alleging that the action would affect thousands of passengers and cost the airline up to €800,000 a day.

USA

⇒ The United States said at a meeting of the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body on 15 August that the European Union had failed to comply with an earlier ruling on subsidies for Airbus, Reuters reported.

The EU’s request – in a document published on 3 August – that the WTO certify that it had removed the allegedly illegal subsidies was reportedly blocked by the US delegation. The next meeting is scheduled for 27 August, where the topic is expected to resurface.

This comes soon after the WTO said on 17 July that it had reopened arbitration proceedings between the US government and the EU.

The US requested that the tribunal resume its work after the WTO’s appellate board ruled on 15 May that EU launch aid provided to Airbus had caused Boeing to lose out on sales of its 747 aircraft in the EU, Australia, China, Korea, Singapore and UAE markets.

The board’s ruling confirmed some of the findings of a WTO compliance panel in September 2016, which convened after the US challenged EU claims that it had stopped providing around €18 billion in subsidised financing to Airbus that breached WTO rules.

⇒ A coalition of aviation lobbying groups – including Airlines for America (A4A), the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and others – have called on the US Senate Commerce Committee to refrain from attaching new aircraft noise reduction measures to a bipartisan bill reauthorising the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) into 2023.

In a letter sent to committee leaders on 26 July, the groups claimed proposals already included in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 were “arguably not necessary” but would be “more than sufficient to augment [existing] rigorous noise assessment and mitigation statutes”.

“Aircraft noise exposure is an issue in certain communities,” they said, but the US aviation industry has “achieved tremendous noise reductions” and “remains committed to further advancements”.

Amendments to decree “new noise measuring protocols, metrics, or thresholds; dictate flight paths; and/or adopt airport-specific flight procedures or aircraft operating restrictions would be highly concerning,” the groups added.

Such measures would be “short-sighted and counterproductive”, the letter said, as they would “seriously undermine” safety and environmental benefits associated with the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) – the agency’s data-driven programme of revisions to aircraft flight paths – and the national airspace system (NAS).

The NextGen programme is the focus of a recent lawsuit brought against the FAA by the Maryland attorney general, alleging that the agency failed to conduct an appropriate environmental review prior to instituting changes to routes into two airports close to Washington, DC, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

The House of Representatives passed its version of the bill by a 393-13 vote earlier this year, after a plan to privatise air traffic control was removed. If it passes the Senate, it will be the first long-term FAA reauthorisation bill since early 2012, when a fifth extension of previous legislation was signed into law.

Asia

⇒ An Australian tribunal has ordered Qatari flag carrier Qatar Airways to reimburse fees charged to Australian travel agent Wow! Travel for excessive “churning” of seat bookings, on the grounds that the fees constitute a penalty.

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) member Holly Nash said in the 2 August decision that the airline should hand back the fees as its intention in levying the charges was to change the travel agency’s behaviour, rather than accurately compensate for losses.

Wow! received charges from Qatar Airways for AUS$217.90 relating to fees imposed for alleged “churning”, a practice whereby travel agents reserve a seat on a flight for a client, then change the booking multiple times over a month before it is actually sold to “avoid . . . time limits for finalising bookings”.

Nash found that the charges were intended to “change the behaviour” of Wow! Travel when booking seats with Qatar, that the fees did not accurately represent the actual costs incurred and that the airline had later instituted a new, lower fee.

She therefore ordered Qatar to reimburse Wow! Tickets for both the AUS$217.90 in fees and the application fee, on the basis that the changes constituted a “penalty”, and dismissed the claim against Air Tickets.

⇒ The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is seeking comments on three new proposed rules, dealing with the operational requirements for both large and small aircraft, and maintenance regulations for general aviation.

According to CASA, the proposed changes to operational rules would make them safer and “consolidate requirements to make them more operationally focused and easier to use”.

The new rules would “largely retain existing regulatory requirements” while reducing the “safety differential” between chartered and regular public flights, and bringing them up to date with international standards and Annex 6 of the Chicago Convention, among other goals.

CASA’s proposed regulations would seek to streamline maintenance requirements, minimise the “level of regulatory burden” and reduce costs. They are “tailored specifically for general aviation” and will be “based on the example of best practices in other leading aviation nations”, the agency said.

Comments are due on the operational regulations by 2 September, and on the maintenance regulations by 28 August.

Africa

⇒ The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish a framework for using the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) to “complement Rwanda’s safety oversight”, IATA said on 14 August.

The MoU will allow Rwanda to become the second African state – after Zimbabwe – to fulfil its commitment under the 2015 Abuja Declaration, which requires all African governments to establish a framework for recognition of IOSA and for all African airlines to obtain IOSA registration by 2020.

The IOSA is a “global benchmark for airline operational safety” and a requirement for all IATA members. According to IATA, the 34 African airlines with an IOSA registration have “delivered safety performance more than three times better than African carriers not on the registry”.

"[We are] committed to improving African aviation safety,” Silas Udahemuka, director general of the CAA, said in a statement. “Our partnership with IATA will help us to do that by taking greater advantage of IOSA in our safety oversight program.”

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