In the aftermath of the numerous terrorist attacks in the European Union, EU member states agreed that additional measures were needed regarding the use of passenger name record data. Belgium has implemented a legal framework for passenger name record data based on EU legislation. It is hoped that the framework will enable all actors to achieve the main aim of fighting terrorist threats and serious crime.
As part of the Federal Public Service for Mobility and Transport, the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority is responsible for developing and maintaining the Belgian Aviation Safety Programme (BASP) in accordance with EU and international requirements on behalf of the state. The cornerstones of the aviation safety policy set out in the BASP are safety management, continuous improvement and a risk-based approach.
A legal vacuum has been filled with a new royal decree on the use of remote controlled aircraft in Belgian airspace. All market players ‒ from manufacturers to service providers ‒ can now develop their activities within the new legal framework, under which safety is paramount. The new regulatory regime provides the required legal certainty to commercialise and operate drones in Belgium, which has been welcomed by the sector.
The Chicago Convention provides that all aircraft must be registered with a national aviation authority and must carry evidence of this registration in the form of a certificate of registration at all times when in operation. The Belgian Aircraft Registry is an operator registry, meaning that aircraft are registered under the name of the operator only. In order to register an aircraft, an operator must submit documents evidencing its title, ownership or lease over the aircraft.
Legislation governing the civil and commercial use of drones in Belgium is limited, but a recently announced draft royal decree aims to fill the legal vacuum. Under the decree, commercial operators will need to register their activity with the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority and take out specific insurance. However, the decree will not apply to toy drones used by children under 14 or to drones used solely for recreational purposes.
The exemption regime applicable to general aviation ground handling at Brussels Airport, pursuant to Article 19 of the Royal Decree of November 6 2010, regulates access to the ground handling market at Brussels Airport. The decree was recently amended by a new royal decree, which added two definitions to clarify that the exemption regime also applies to business and private charter aviation.
The applicability of the EU regulations governing passenger claims has often been the subject of intense legal debate. A Brussels court recently confirmed Article 5 of the EU Brussels I Regulation as the mandatory legal framework on jurisdiction with regard to passenger claims for compensation. The decision has increased legal certainty in an area pervaded by ample pro-consumer case law.
The Belgian Ministry of Public Health and the Brussels Airport Company have recently put several measures into place at Brussels Airport in order to reduce the Ebola infection risk, including compulsory temperature screening for passengers flying from Ebola-stricken countries. It is not unthinkable that these measures will be extended if the Ebola threat expands to other countries.
The Law of April 4 2014 on Insurance was recently published in the Official Gazette and will enter into force in November 2014. Although at first glance the new law seems to create uncertainty regarding aviation insurance – especially with regard to its effect on the direct right of action granted to an injured party against the insurer – its actual impact on aviation insurance contracts is likely to be limited.
The EU Aviation Emissions Trading Scheme Directive extends the scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading to aviation activities. Enforcement of the directive has been fiercely debated in Belgium, which has faced implementation issues on a regional level. Proposed amendments to the emissions trading scheme have created only further uncertainty over the country's enforcement of the scheme.
One of the main principles introduced by EU Regulation 1008/2008 is that an EU air carrier may freely lease aircraft unless this would endanger safety. Until recently, the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority continued to apply the previous regulation, thus creating operational difficulties for Belgian air carriers. After five years of inconsistencies, the authority has amended its wet-lease regime to accord with EU reforms.
The Brussels local court recently ruled that a typhoon can be qualified as an extraordinary circumstance exonerating airlines from liability under EU Regulation 261/2004, which established common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and cancellation or long delay of flights. The decision stressed important principles of which the courts often lose sight.
When selling flight-only tickets, travel agents enter into two separate special agency agreements, under which they undertake distinct obligations to both the customer and the air carrier. This is referred to as the 'double mandate system'. However, this system raises the question of whether travel agents act as agents for the customer, the air carrier or both, either jointly or separately.
The EU Aviation Emissions Trading Scheme Directive mandates that aircraft operators compensate for emissions from all flights that land at or take off from EU airports by using a system of allowances. Implementation of the directive in Belgium has faced several hurdles, largely due to uncertainty over whether federal or regional authorities are responsible for the implementation.
A Brussels Court of Appeal decision on the meaning of 'loss' under the Warsaw Convention follows established opinion in Belgium, according to which loss may occur not only when goods are destroyed or lost, but also when they are handed over to an unauthorised receiver. However, as the damage in this case could not be evidenced, the carrier and its agent were not ordered to pay.
One of the main principles of EU Regulation 1008/2008 is that a Community air carrier may freely lease aircraft unless this would endanger safety. Unfortunately, the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority's Circular on the Leasing of Aircraft for Commercial Air Transport was not amended further to the reforms at EU level in 2008. As a consequence, lease-in or lease-out arrangements involving Belgium raise difficult issues.