Long-awaited Government plans to shake up the Republic’s air travel regulators are set to move a step closer in coming weeks.
Minister for Transport Shane Ross wants to move responsibility for regulating air travel safety to the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) from its current overseer, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA).
His department confirmed at the weekend that it had almost completed a draft version of the Bill needed to make the proposed change in how the State regulates the industry. “Heads of a Bill are at an advanced stage of preparation,” a spokesman said.
A "heads of Bill" is a draft of proposed legislation that an Oireachtas committee scrutinises before the Bill is produced and begins its passage towards becoming law.
Shifting responsibility for aviation safety to the CAR from the IAA will require the Oireachtas to pass legislation allowing this to happen and defining both bodies’ new roles.
Mr Ross has been planning the change in air travel regulation since 2017, following a review by consultants Helios, which recommended the move on the basis that most other EU member states take this approach.
Under the current regime, the IAA governs safety, air traffic control and navigation through Irish air space, while the CAR regulates consumer rights, travel agents, tour operators and sets the passenger charges that Dublin Airport levies on airlines.
Air traffic control
If the Oireachtas passes Mr Ross's proposed changes, the IAA will keep responsibility for air traffic control, that is managing take-offs and landings from airports. It will also retain air navigation, which involves guiding craft through the Republic's air space, which is extensive and encompasses most routes between Europe and North America.
In addition, the IAA and its British equivalent, NATS, are jointly responsible for aiding craft navigate a large area in the mid-north Atlantic through which nearly all Europe-North America air traffic passes.
Airlines pay the IAA for both services. Last year it earned €31.6 million profit, around 6 per cent less than in 2017. The authority intends paying the State a €19.5 million dividend.
The EU wants member states to separate these commercial activities from air travel safety.