Air Macau monopoly extended again as civil aviation bill still underway

2023-11-07 02:59     BY Tony Wong    Comment:1

The government announced yesterday that it has decided to extend Air Macau’s monopoly concession for another three years, or until the city’s future new law regulating civil aviation activities finally takes effect.

The concession was initially slated to expire tomorrow.

A statement by the Macau Civil Aviation Authority (AACM) noted that a government-initiated bill regulating Macau’s civil aviation activities is still being reviewed by one of the legislature’s standing committees. Before the future civil aviation law comes into force, the statement said, it is necessary to maintain the city’s current exclusive concession system for air passenger transport services so that Air Macau can continue to provide an “uninterrupted” passenger air service for local residents and visitors alike.

The statement also underlined that Air Macau’s exclusive concession “does not prevent” any non-local airlines outside Macau from operating passenger routes serving Macau.

The statement also said that the airport operator, Macau International Airport Company Limited (CAM), is intensively carrying out its marketing campaigns with the aim of attracting more mainland and foreign airlines to operate passenger routes serving Macau.

Air Macau’s 25-year monopoly was granted in 1995, when Macau was still under temporary Portuguese administration.

The Macau government decided in 2018 that it would liberalise the city’s civil aviation sector, when it told Air Macau, the city’s flag carrier, that it had decided not to renew its monopoly concession, which was then initially scheduled to expire in November 2020.

However, the government announced in May 2020 that it had decided to extend Air Macau’s monopoly concession for three years, because it was then still drafting a new piece of legislation on liberalising Macau’s civil aviation sector, i.e., the civil aviation bill currently being reviewed by the legislature, as well as with the aim of ensuring the stability of the civil aviation sector which was then affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The three-year extension of Air Macau’s monopoly concession as a locally headquartered airline commenced on November 9, 2020, because of which it was initially scheduled to expire tomorrow, but now it has been extended again for another three years, or until the new civil aviation law comes into force.

The legislature passed the outline of the civil aviation bill during a plenary session in June this year, after which it was passed to its 3rd Standing Committee for an article-by-article review. Once the committee finally completes its review, the bill will be resubmitted to another plenary session for its second and final debate and article-by-article vote.

If the bill is passed by the legislature in its second and final reading, the government will promulgate it in the Official Gazette (BO), only after which the bill will become law.

Bill proposes licensing passenger airlines

The bill proposes to liberalise Macau’s civil aviation sector by licensing the setting-up and operations of more locally headquartered airlines operating passenger transport services through public tender.

The government has underlined that after the new civil aviation law takes effect, it would only grant a limited number of licences considering the small size of Macau’s commercial air passenger transport services.

If passed by lawmakers in its final reading, the new civil aviation law will replace the current administrative regulation (by-law) on Macau’s civil aviation activities, which was promulgated in 2004.

The bill proposes the licensing of companies operating commercial air passenger transport services, a change from the current regulation which only permits an exclusive concession on commercial air transport services.

The bill proposes that each licence will be valid for 25 years.

Moreover, the bill proposes that after the new law takes effect, Macau’s current concessionaire for commercial air transport services, i.e., Air Macau, will be automatically granted a licence for commercial air passenger transport service without the need to participate in a public tender. Its current concession will remain valid until the respective licence is granted. The government has underlined that the proposed provision aims to ensure that Air Macau will be one of the future licence holders for commercial air passenger transport services.

The government had said earlier this year said that it expected the new civil aviation legislation to be able to take effect – following its passage by the legislature – before the then scheduled expiration of Air Macau’s monopoly concession.

This photo taken earlier this year shows three Air Macau aircraft parked on the local airport’s apron in Taipa. – Photo: Tony Wong

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