ASEAN regional air services agreement talks take off

  • Hon Phil Twyford

The Government and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have begun talks on a unified air services agreement, Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced.

The two days of talks between officials began with a meeting between Phil Twyford and Cambodia’s Minister in Charge of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, Minister Mao Havanall.

Phil Twyford said ASEAN is a vital partner in the region and we want to strengthen our ties with South East Asia.

“While New Zealand has negotiated individual air services agreements with each of the ten ASEAN member states, there are differences between them.

“A single regional agreement would raise the overall quality of air services within the region, ensure a consistent set of rules for air travel, and create new growth opportunities for ASEAN and New Zealand airlines. 

“This could mean more destinations, more flights, and better air fares for Kiwis travelling to South East Asia in the future.

“The current air service agreements with ASEAN countries have contributed to the growth of tourism in New Zealand, with visitors from South East Asia nearly doubling since 2013 to over 210,000 last year.

“A regional agreement would make it even easier for visitors to come to New Zealand, further fuelling this growth.

“New Zealand has already benefited from an increasing number of airlines both operating and code-sharing here, and this has helped us achieve around four million tourist arrivals last year - worth over $11 billion to our economy.

“This growth in visitor numbers is only possible through the air services arrangements we have put in place, which makes improving them vital to growing the tourism sector,” Phil Twyford said.  

Traditionally, air services are negotiated on a country-by-country basis, resulting in an international aviation system governed by over 3000 such agreements.  The agreements often do not align, meaning lost opportunities.  The value of an agreement with one country is reduced if complementary rights have not been secured with another country. 

Each bilateral agreement also creates a unique regulatory environment for airlines, for example, concerning customs procedures, the setting up of local offices and sending earnings back to home countries.  Because the various agreements differ in detail, airlines have to comply with varying requirements thereby creating costs and complexity. Regional air service agreements cut down on this complexity.

Our ambitious programme of international air services negotiations, based on the principle of open skies, means that most of the world’s major airlines can fly to New Zealand without restriction.

New Zealand has over 80 air services relationships, opening up new routes and ensuring competition on existing ones.