Air transportation: Regulation
Air transportation traditionally has been regulated very heavily. Economic regulation of fares, cargo rates,market access, and capacity became widespread after World War II, both internationally as countries tried to develop their own commercial air fleets, and domestically as air transportation became a mechanism for greater mobility and political cohesion within countries. Notions that airlines, airports, and air navigation services, if leftunchecked, would becomemonopolies thatwould penalize users were used to justify economic regulation of fares and access. Social regulation was also widespread and often aimed at providing otherwise unremunerative services to remote regions as well as to ensure adequate safety.
Internationally, the UN International Civil Aviation Organization, established at the end of World War II at the Chicago Convention, regulates air transportation. The resultant agreements give sovereignty to countries regarding their own air space and set down the basis of negotiations between nations over international routes, called air service agreements. Until the late 20th century, most international traffic was severely controlled: often, only one carrier from each country could offer international services at a regulated fare, with a limited capacity, and with the revenues shared equally between the two countries.Many domesticmarkets were also strictly controlled, and in some cases a state-owned airline was the only supplier of services at a regulated fare.
From the late 1970s on, there has been a global movement to introduce more market-based structures into the air transportation sector. This began when U.S. airlines removed rate and market entry controls (other than those retained for safety and security reasons) for domestic air cargo services in 1977 and from passenger services in 1978. The United States also initiated a large number of ‘‘Open Skies’’ agreements in the 1980s and 1990s that removed route access and fare controls from bilateral air service agreements with other countries but retained cabotage, the freedom of external airlines to operate within another country, and ownership controls. Parallel to this, by 1997 a gradual relaxation of international bilateral air service agreements within the European Union freed airlines services, both domestic and international, from economic regulation, includingownership ruleswithin the EU.
The result of these changes has been an expansion in the number of commercial airlines and an increase in the diversity of services provided, not only by lowcost carriers on short-haul routes, but also by specialist airlines that offer only business class service on long-haul flights. In markets where regulatory reforms have been enacted, fares have been brought more closely into line with costs. At the same time, competition has lowered fares and forced airlines to become more efficient.