ASEAN liberalisation got off the runway on the 1st February 2008 when air traffic controllers gave the all-clear for budget flights between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur - with four budget flights a day between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur for now
The final destination is an Asean Single Aviation Market by 2015, when carriers can criss-cross the skies over the 10 member countries freely.
Two key milestones Asean must be crossed before 2015 are:
1. the lifting of all restrictions on flights between capital cities by December 2008, and
2. "fifth freedom" or "beyond" rights by 2010, for example, Singapore Airlines will be able to fly to Kuala Lumpur, and from there continue onward to Bangkok, Jakarta or any other destination.
The roadmap to 2015 was ratified by member countries - Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar - at the last Asean Transport Ministers Meeting in Singapore towards the end of 2007.
Liberalisation in Asean will be tailored along the lines of the European Union model, said Mr Lee Yoong Yoong, head of the infrastructure unit at the Asean Secretariat's Bureau for Economic Integration and Finance.
The final framework, that will govern the workings of a more liberalised Asean will be presented to the transport ministers when they meet in the Philippines later this year. It will include the Aviation Competition Policy with provisions on fair competition and safe guards, and it will address the matter of state aid and subsidies. Also being ironed out are the details of the enforcement mechanism.
Beyond that and gearing up for 2015, other issues will come to the forefront. Asean is toying with feasibility of a single regulatory regime governing air transport within the Single Aviation Market, which will speak in one voice on behalf of all member states in negotiations with other countries or blocs.
To some extent, this is already the practice. The group is working on an Asean-China air service agreement which could potentially replace all the existing bilateral arrangements and similar talks are slated to start with India sometime this year.
It will be a long-haul flight to the final 2015 destination, with some rough winds and turbulence expected along the way.
Getting all 10 countries to stick to the same flight path will be no mean feat. This can only be achieved if there is commitment and political will to put the Asean traveler first, rather than fear that a few tails may drop from the skies.
[extracted from The Straits Times - Saturday, February 02, 2008]