(Geneva) The International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomed the announcement by the United States and European Union that they will re-commence discussions of an Open Aviation Area in Brussels on Monday, 18 October.

"The air transport industry desperately needs change. The enormous losses of recent years are the most compelling case for change—US$36 billion of accumulated losses between 2001 and 2004 with another US$7.4 billion predicted for 2005. The re-opening of US-EU discussions on an Open Aviation Area is a golden opportunity for change that will result in a stronger and more competitive aviation industry," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's Director General and CEO.

IATA supports a progressive approach to industry liberalisation. "The US and EU are in a unique position to lead the industry with a bold new agreement that could become a model for global change. Both parties must think beyond the traditional and beyond open skies. Airlines need to be able to conduct their business like any other business. That means not only the freedom to serve markets where they exist, but also to access global capital markets and merge and consolidate across borders where it makes good business sense," said Bisignani.

The US and EU must move forward with change. "There is no reason not to change. We have two markets with similar geographic dimension, similar population and a similar level of technology and development. And together they comprise nearly two thirds of aviation. They must return to their traditional leadership role in the industry and drive us forward with new ideas," said Bisignani.

IATA cautioned against a half-hearted result. "For too long we have lived with half-measures in the industry's regulatory environment: intensifying competition without regulating our monopoly suppliers; freeing markets but micro-managing the business and talking liberalisation but keeping nationalistic ownership rules. I challenge both parties to come to an agreement that takes us beyond the half-measures of the past and lets the airlines get on with business," said Bisignani.