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Macao’s civil aviation sector prepares for takeoff

Lawmakers have given the thumbs up to a bill that will end Air Macau’s decades-long monopoly and allow other airlines to base themselves in the territory.

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UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 6:49 am

A government-sponsored bill to liberalise Macao’s civil aviation sector was passed in draft form by the Legislative Assembly yesterday. 

The measure provides for the establishment of more locally headquartered airlines offering passenger transport services, Macau Post Daily reports, and is a change from current regulations which only permit an exclusive concession.

The bill will now go to a legislative standing committee for review, before being submitted to the chamber for a second scrutiny and final vote.

Raimundo do Rosário, the transport secretary, told legislators that the government envisages granting only a small number of commercial air passenger transport licences, given the limited size of the market.

Legislators raised a number of concerns, according to the Portuguese Lusa news agency. 

Deputy Ip Sio Kai asked how the liberalisation would benefit local workers. “Most pilots are not Macao workers, and in relation to aircraft repair technicians, I don’t know if they are local workers or non-resident workers,” he said. 

[See more: Air Macau is boosting its flight schedule for the summer]

Leong Sun Iok said he hoped that Macao could “train more qualified staff” and asked, “Are we going to demand in the contract that airlines must train personnel?”

Deputy Ella Lei Cheng I said she wanted to “better understand what are the requirements, conditions and path to be followed by the government” owing to “failures in the past” – a reference to the fate of Viva Macau,  an airline that began operating in 2006 under a sub-concession from Air Macau, but whose licence was revoked following flight cancellations and financial problems.

The proposed new licences will be valid for a period of 25 years and awarded through public tender, Macau Post Daily says.

The draft bill is a milestone in the opening up of the sector. The process began in 2018, when Air Macau was told that its monopoly, granted in 1995 under Portuguese administration, would not be renewed. 

The flag carrier will be awarded a new licence under the new rules without having to participate in the tender process.

 

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 6:49 am

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