The Preamble of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention) includes "equality of opportunity'' as one of the principles for the development of international air transport.
Article 44 on the objectives of ICAO refers to the right of each ICAO Member State to have ''a fair opportunity to operate international airlines" and to non-discrimination between Member States. As of the signing of the Chicago Convention, these concepts have served as important guiding principles in the economic development of international air transport and have been interpreted and elaborated through bilateral air services agreements (ASAs) between Member States.
During decades following the signature of the Chicago Convention, the economic regulatory framework for international air transport established through ASAs was mostly determined by States, and competition between airlines was limited.
The reduction by States of controls within the air transport industry, known as "liberalization" or "deregulation", has fostered competition between air carriers. Enhanced competition, in turn, has led many carriers to consider consolidation as a means by which to achieve economies of scale and scope and to respond to consumer demands for global networks. With heightened competition and consolidation also comes a higher risk of anti-competitive behaviour. In addition, in order to keep their national airlines competitive in a liberalized market, some governments may be tempted to lend support to their airlines through means that could deny the airlines of other States a fair and equal opportunity to compete. Therefore, it is important that States apply competition law to air transport and continue discussions on safeguard measures and other actions in order to address unfair practices.