The airline industry is very highly regulated; affected by a complex network of legal, economic, technical and safety regulations. International air law is dominated by the principle of sovereignty over the airspace above a State’s territory. Every state decides autonomously, by whom and when its airspace is used. The permission to use a state’s airspace is formally called “air traffic right”, but commonly called “freedom of air”.
Entry into international air markets is determined through an elaborate series of bilateral agreements between governments. These bilateral Air Service Agreements (ASAs) are the legal basis for the international air transport. Air Traffic Rights are negotiated and granted in these agreements. There are nine freedoms of air in international air law.
The First freedom is the right to overfly a foreign country without landing. Second freedom is the right to land a foreign country for non-traffic purposes such as refuelling, maintenance or emergencies.
The third freedom gives the right to fly passengers from the registration state of the air carrier to a foreign state. The fourth freedom correlates with the third freedom and grants the right to fly passengers from a foreign state to the registration state of the carrier. The Third and Fourth Freedoms are the origin of the direct commercial services between two countries.
The Fifth Freedom gives the right to carry traffic between two foreign countries on a flight that either originated in or is destined at the carrier’s home country. It enables airlines to carry passengers from a home country to another intermediate country, and then fly on to third country with the right to pick passengers in the intermediate country. If the airline is granted the fifth freedom, it can combine different flights to one single flight and use capacities of aircrafts more efficiently.
The Sixth freedom grants the right to carry traffic between two foreign countries via the carrier’s home country by combining third and fourth freedoms. Sixth freedom rights are natural consequence of third and fourth freedom rights and provide basis for many international “hub airport” strategies.
The Seventh freedom grants a right to carry traffic between two foreign countries, which are both not the registration state of the operating carrier. In 7th freedom, the aircraft is permanently stationed in one of the two foreign countries concerned and the flight need not to be an extension of any service to/from the home State of the carrier.
Finally, the Eighth and Ninth freedoms involve cabotage, the transport of domestic revenue traffic within a state other than the carrier’s home state. These rights are the most important privileges in air traffic rights and rarely given. They give an important competitive advantage to the airlines, which have these two freedoms. The Eighth Freedom; refers to the right to carry traffic between two domestic points in a foreign country on a flight which either originates or terminates at the carrier’s home country. The Ninth freedom removes all restrictions on cabotage. It is same with the Eight Freedom, but with no requirement of the flight terminates or originates at carrier’s home country. The eight freedom sometimes called as “consecutive” cabotage, and the ninth freedom as “stand alone” cabotage.
As far as the air traffic rights, agreed upon in bilateral air service agreements, these rights are not granted directly to the airlines, but exchanged among the contracting states, who, in a second step, pass these rights to the airlines registered within their jurisdictions. The ASAs give national governments great power over the airlines, both those established on their own territory and any foreign airlines wanting to fly into their airspace in order to offer commercial services.
Anahtar Kelimeler: Air Traffic Rights, Freedom of Air, Air Service Agreements, Competition, Cabotage