I propose to take Questions Nos. 468 to 471, inclusive, together.
Ireland traditionally has a liberal aviation policy and remains positively disposed towards the development of competitive air services. In that context, my Department continues to seek to include unrestricted fifth freedoms in any bilateral air services agreement it is in the process of negotiating or with regard to any EU comprehensive agreements with third countries.
The Ireland - Ethiopia Bilateral Air Services Agreement, signed in 2014, allows for the granting of fifth freedom air traffic rights for airlines of both countries, on a reciprocal basis, and subject to the approval of the relevant aeronautical authorities.
The route to Addis Ababa is important in terms of global connectivity, and remains Ireland’s only service to a hub airport in Africa. The 5th freedom sectors play an important part in contributing to the overall sustainability of the route. It additionally provides competition in the market which has a wider benefit for Irish consumers.
Over the past five years my Department has authorised a number of non-EU airlines to operate fifth freedom passenger flights. These include:
- Addis Ababa - Dublin - Los Angeles with return;
- Beijing - Edinburgh - Dublin with return;
- Addis Abba - Madrid - Dublin with return; and
- Shanghai (Pudong) – Helsinki – Dublin with return.
Authorisation has also been granted for fifth freedom cargo flights, these include:
- Istanbul - Shannon - Chicago;
- Istanbul - Shannon - New York; and
- Istanbul - Shannon - Atlanta.
The European Single Aviation Market rules provide that EU airlines operating fifth freedom flights within Europe do not require authorisation from my Department.
Non-EU airlines operating air services into EU Member States are required to hold a valid Third Country Operator (TCO) number, issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). This number serves as an indication that the airline has met the safety and oversight requirements as outlined in EU Regulations, which are themselves based on international standards and recommended practices, associated procedures, guidance material and safety related practices.
The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) is responsible for aviation safety regulation in Ireland and is authorised to perform ramp inspections on aircraft for compliance with European and International safety standards.