An aircraft is an essential factor in reducing economic isolation and fostering economic development. Within recent years, the international tourism boom (one of the main economic drivers of the region), the enhancement of the standard of living, the role of some regional airports as hubs, as well as historical and commercial links with the United States and Europe, have led to the significant development of air transport services in the Caribbean. Today, almost all the islands (including the smallest amongst them) have an airport. Consequently, in relation to its population, the Caribbean Basin is among the world’s most frequented airspaces.
However, air transport development in the region has not served regional integration. Further, the Caribbean is known as a particularly outward-looking region, with external flows greatly surpassing internal flows, attesting to a poor cohesion of the regional space. In fact, air transport development has patterned itself on and adapted to historical preferences.
A large majority of intraregional services are provided by small public or private airlines, managing limited networks, with low capacity aircraft. No one airline serves the region in its entirety. Consequently, travellers are obliged to resort to a number of successive airlines to make trips (sometimes in opposite directions), usually with long waiting periods. The loss of time counteracts the benefits of time saved as a result of the speed of the aircraft. This is coupled with the high cost of regional transport. Ultimately, with regard to distance, cost and time, many Caribbean islands, though near, seem quite remote.
The implementation of a coherent, integrated, efficient and safe air transport system at the regional level is a key element in the development of the Greater Caribbean, both in developing trade and in facilitating the movement of persons, thereby strengthening regional cooperation and integration.
Cooperation in the Area of Transport is one of the priorities of the mandates of the ACS. Conscious of the issues and needs existing in this area, the Members States and Associate Members signed the Air Transport Agreement at their meeting in Panama on 12th February 2004. The signing took place within the framework of the programme “Uniting the Caribbean by Air and Sea”, adopted by the Special Committee of the ACS Transport Directorate, and aimed at fostering the development of trade, investment and tourism in the Member Countries of the Association.
To implement a common air transport policy among the Member States and Associate Members of the ACS, in response to the objective of the programme entitled “Uniting the Caribbean by Air and Sea”.
- To establish a legal framework required for cooperation in this area
- To enable airlines to offer a variety of quality air services for the transportation of passengers and trade of goods
- To provide an efficient, cost-effective air transport service at affordable rates
- To strengthen the security and safety of aircraft
The process of ratification by the Member States and Associate Members is still underway. To date, the Agreement has been ratified by 12 countries.
The text establishes a basic mechanism for the granting of air traffic rights and identifies a uniform regulatory framework, to regulate the provision of air transport services among the States of the ACS.
The Agreement entered into force on 19th September 2008 (the minimum number of ratifications required, established at one-third, has been attained).