Ecuador has adopted, as national public policy, the full liberalization of air transport, with the exception of cabotage traffic1. This leads to application of the "open skies" policy to improve air connectivity and for purposes of enhancing tourism. Thus, the country is leaving behind a restrictive and protectionist air-commercial policy that limited the growth of this sector.
This decision also includes implementation of benefits for the airlines such as fuel subsidy for airplanes in the network of airports administered by the Civil Aviation Directorate ("DGAC" by its Spanish initials) and airports under municipal administration. It might be considered that DGAC has not been sufficiently efficient in stimulating the use of the airports it manages. Therefore, this measure seeks to attract new commercial operations towards those airports in order to amortize the millionaire investments made for their infrastructure. The majority of those airports is local with the exception of the Manta airport and the Esmeraldas and Santa Rosa binational airports on the international boundaries.
The open skies policy and its favorable conditions for air-commercial operations in the Ecuadorian market have given rise to much expectation, and it is expected that airlines such a Spirit Airlines, Condor, VivaColombia will return with greater participation, in addition to the recently approved bilateral agreement with Canada which, among other things, allows direct flights between both nations.
On the other hand, the open skies policy purports free competition in the market, namely, that restrictions cannot be imposed on commercial flights in respect of the number of airlines, capacity, frequency and aircraft. In that connection, negotiations of open skies agreements between interested nations will respect the arm's length principle seeking to guarantee permanent provision of services and preventing unfair practices or abuse of dominant or monopolistic positions.
The seventh freedom of the air could be optionally applied to cargo transport. In other words, an airline could be allowed to perform cargo operations between another country and a third country with non-stop flights or originating from or having as destination the country of origin of that airline.
Open skies should bring benefits to the air-commercial sector that wishes to operate in the Ecuadorian air space. This means that aeronautical control authorities should relax their administrative requirements and be more efficient. Allocation of frequencies and flight equipment should be easier and air fares must be reduced. All of these result in higher tourist potential, reduction of ticket costs and greater connectivity.
In conclusion, for the open skies policy to result in the expected benefits, it is also necessary to cut down other taxation and bureaucratic restrictions and to improve legal stability, tourist promotion and other incentives that can attract the airlines' investment both in the passenger and in the cargo sectors.
1 Decree 256 dated December 27 2017 signed by Lenin Moreno, President of Ecuador.
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