The CEOs of Europe’s five largest airline groups hosted a press briefing in Brussels earlier today (June 17) to outline their shared vision for a new EU Aviation Strategy.
The group outlined four main measures for the aviation industry to support the EU, agreeing that a common strategy and comprehensive plan was well overdue.
Several key principles included a commitment to safety, support for pro-competition policy and regulation within the EU, and an opposition to state-aid.
Carsten Spohr, Lufthansa CEO, highlighted the impact the aviation industry has on the EU as a whole: “Our industry doesn’t just create jobs in our own industry, but has a huge multiplying effect on any country we are representing. It is crucial for the economic strength of Europe to improve our aviation strategy,” she said.
The cost of EU airports is one of the greatest problems within Europe, and is one of the main issues which need to be addressed, according to the panel. Lowering the cost of the EU’s airports will be possible by ensuring the monopoly airports are effectively regulated, ensuring that passengers receive the full benefit of the commercial revenues which they create at airports.
According to Alexandre de Juniac, Chairman and CEO of Air France-KLM, regulations on monopoly airports would safe consumers 1.5 billion euros.
“We need to introduce one-stop security. There is an inadequate control on security costs in Europe which need to be put under a clear cap,” he said.
The CEOs highlighted the issue surrounding air traffic control in the EU, including the number of strikes which affect EU airspace. With over 3,000 flights cancelled so far in 2015 due to air strikes, Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair spoke about the inefficient airspace provision.
“The EU needs to ensure that ATC strikes do not cause disruption for passengers by making use of the new technology tools available. We need to allow airlines to overfly countries where there are air traffic control strikes,”
“Only half of the planned efficiency gains from Single European Sky will be achieved by 2020,” he added.
With a better, more efficient use of EU funding, the CEOs are calling for action on flights, and a reform of legislation on the Single European Sky policy.
The group moved onto the issues of taxes on aviation within the EU, stating that several European countries continue to impose unreasonable taxes on aviation.
“There is clear evidence from independent research that passenger tax is counterproductive, it reduces economic output and therefore government revenue,” said Willie Walsh, CEO of International Airlines Group (IAG), parent of British Airways, Iberia and low-cost carrier, Vueling.
The IAG CEO also highlighted that experience from countries such as the Netherlands and Ireland show that when such taxes are removed, aviation and economic activity significantly increases.
According to the group, the EU needs to act to ensure that these taxes are lifted – leading to more travel, more investment, more trade and ultimately increased jobs and growth.
“Aviation is an enabler of European growth, we should support the industry to support growth,” added Walsh.
Concluding, Carolyn McCall confirmed the group’s support for several key principles: “We will take our proposed measures to the Commission – to increase competition, encourage efficiency and reduce costs in other parts of our industry,” she said.
Airlines have continuously delivered lower fares for consumers over the last two decades – now is the time to ensure these reductions are matched by other parts of the industry, noted McCall.
“We will continue to work together to promote the interests of our passengers. Our strategy will be open to all airlines in Europe, we need to work together closely, and more seriously,” she said.