Open skies coming more quickly to Asia?


Kuala Lumpur (XFNews-ASIA) - Some ASEAN members are considering bringing forward an open-skies agreement due to be implemented in the region by 2008, Malaysian Transport Minister Chan Kong Choy said.

"We are open (to the idea). Some countries say yes, some are very concerned and some say no. So it is mixed feelings among ASEAN members," Chan told Agence France-Presse. "We will look into it," he added.
Chan said Singapore is "pushing" for the deadline to be brought forward.

The minister said his counterparts from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had agreed that by end-2008, there will be free passage of capital-to-capital flights among member countries.

"So we are just merely talking about bringing forward that arrangement, either bilaterally or multilaterally," he said.

"But since we have a message that (Singapore-based) Tiger Air is keen to operate to Kuala Lumpur and of course AirAsia has also told us that they do not mind flying to Singapore ... we are prepared to look into it," Chan said.

Chan said a committee under Malaysian transport ministry secretary-general Muhamad Safaruddin will look into the impact of early implementation.

An open skies policy is an aviation principle that allows a foreign airline to operate unlimited services to another country.

The ASEAN agreement would initially apply for routes between ASEAN capitals and would later expand to other cities.

AirAsia's chief executive Tony Fernandes, which has complained in the past about the budget carrier being denied access to Singapore, hailed the prospect of early aviation liberalisation among ASEAN capitals.

"It is a huge benefit for AirAsia. It does not take a rocket scientist to work out the gains. The KL-Singapore route is one of the most expensive routes around and yet there is a huge demand to go there," he told AFP.

"It will benefit both Malaysia and Singapore. The airfare will be a lot less," he said.

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