Air Transport World

Ready or not, here comes '93; air-transport and ATC infrastructure may not be set. But the 'European family' will be created, for better or worse. (air traffic control) (EC '93)

As in any good marriage, the partners of the European Community are showing clear signs of cold feet as their wedding day approaches. The slim French "yes" vote on Maastricht and the economic and political traumas that resuited from September's turbulence in the European Monetary System accentuated the existence of diverging views and sentiments within the EC, even as its unity day beckons.

But also as in any good marriage, the partners will duly turn up on the appointed day, shoving any doubt or reservation aside for resolution later in the course of household politics. The European family will be created officially on Jan. 1, for better or worse --despite the last-minute panicking of its final days of nominal celibacy.

For air transport, it means "open skies" becomes a reality on Jan. 1--however ill-prepared European airlines and the infrastructure they depend on may be for the great event.

Just as their governments are obliged to "unite" as a community without any path toward monetary and political union having been definitively decided upon--Maastricht now being an even bet at best--the airlines of Europe will be flying into open skies with differing air-traffic-control systems, ownership philosophies and bargaining positions with the U.S.

In order to explore the issue of "countdown toward a new Europe," the Air Forum '92 conference in Geneva in October brought together some of the biggest players in world air transport to assess the EC's current state of affairs. The conference-first of a new biennial series sponsored by 18 European and international air transport organizations --was kicked off by a panel that included Bernard Attali of Air France, British Airways' Sir Colin Marshall, Alitalia's Giovani Bisignani, Thai International's Chatrachai Bunya-Ananm, and the U.S. DOT's assistant negotiator, Susan McDermott.

The composite. impressions from the opposing views voiced by panelists may appear rather platitudinous: In agreeing to disagree, the panel painted a picture of a united Europe in which, initially at least, everybody goes his own way and takes care of his own business. Harmony, much less harmonization, of the EC air industry, be it in ATC, privatization, competition or even negotiations with the common threat of U.S. airlines, is not yet on the horizon in the "open skies" of January.

This disunity in outlook will disable EC airlines in two major ways. …

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