The role of regional airlines in the growth and prosperity of Europe’s far flung regions is going largely unrecognised by policymakers in Brussels who fixate on solving problems in its core area.
This year’s European Regions Airline Association (ERA) Regional Airline Conference, being held this week in Porto, is examining ways in which to change this mind-set in order to protect air links with Europe’s regions
“Regional airlines are particularly vulnerable to additional taxes and regulatory burdens, while recent proposals to amend the slot allocation regulation threaten to squeeze out regional air services from connecting to congested hub airports in favour of larger, non-European carriers,” said the airline organisation.
“Whilst customer care is at the forefront of most airlines’ business policies, current passenger rights laws which oblige airlines to provide unlimited hotel accommodation and meals to passengers when travel is disrupted – even for events beyond the airlines’ control such as volcanic eruptions or bad weather can be crippling to regional airlines.”
Mike Ambrose, ERA director general, said: “ERA airlines are often the lifeblood of regional communities. They provide critical links between island communities and the mainland, or provide fast, frequent connections to hub airports for business travellers. Around 85 per cent of Europe’s citizens live in the regions and the ability for the regions to participate within the world economy is integral to the future prosperity of Europe. An efficient and sustainable air transport system is critical to achieving this goal. Persuading Europe’s policymakers to take more account of regional interests, is one of the key challenges facing Europe’s regional aviation industry.”
ERA outlined the key issues that need to be addressed by Europe’s policymakers:
- Europe’s air transport policy to take greater account of the needs of Europe’s regions
- A greater sensitivity by regulators and politicians regarding the social and economic benefits that regional air services provide and a correspondingly higher sensitivity to the potential impact of new regulatory burdens, especially for smaller airlines
- A halt by EU States on the imposition of new taxes
- More rational consideration of passengers’ rights. Although politically popular, none of these rights comes without additional costs for the overwhelming majority of passengers
- Continued access to major hub airports
- A solution to the ETS crisis with strong support for the efforts of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation)
- Greater transparency with respect to the charges and fees levied by airports to ensure a level playing field for all airlines
- Acceleration of the Single European Sky and measures to ensure that the SESAR project delivers its promised objectives in full and on time.