Ryanair and Aer Lingus are demanding the opportunity to provide more flights as the European Commission reviews “unfair” competition from non-EU airlines.
The commission yesterday unveiled a package of proposals designed to strengthen Europe’s aviation sector and said that it was considering further measures.
The airlines said that the focus of the European plan “must be on concrete and measurable actions that support European airlines and their customers by providing more flights and lower fares”.
International Airlines Group, the owner of Aer Lingus, issued a joint statement with Ryanair, Air France-KLM, easyJet and Lufthansa that called for “a stronger and more competitive European aviation industry”.
“We need to act now. Large-scale airport monopolies, high charges, taxation and inefficiencies characterise the aviation supply chain,” they said. “Airport charges have risen by more than two thirds over the last ten years. This is in direct contrast to the lower air fares being delivered by Europe’s airlines. We want to create growth and new jobs across Europe, both within aviation and beyond.”
Yesterday the commission adopted its Aviation Strategy for Europe, which it said was a “milestone initiative to boost Europe’s economy, strengthen its industrial base and reinforce its global leadership position”.
The package — presented by Violeta Bulc, the transport commissioner, and Maros Sefcovic, vice-president in charge of the energy union — intends to improve connectivity, tackle capacity constraints and charges at airports and to regulate the use of drones.
The commission has asked for a mandate from national governments to start talks on air transport agreements with countries including China, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar. Talks with Gulf countries could prove difficult because some European carriers, such as Lufthansa and Air France-KLM, have accused the Gulf airlines of receiving unfair state subsidies.
“European aviation is facing a number of challenges and [this] strategy sets out a comprehensive and ambitious action-plan to keep the sector ahead of the curve,” Ms Bulc said. “It will keep European companies competitive, through new investment and business opportunities, allowing them to grow in a sustainable manner. European citizens will also benefit from more choice, cheaper prices and the highest levels of safety and security.”
The commission said that the biggest challenges to aviation growth in Europe were constraints on capacity, efficiency and connectivity.
“The fragmentation of the European airspace costs at least €5 billion a year and up to 50 million tonnes of CO2. Capacity constraints at EU airports could cost up to 818,000 jobs by 2035. Now is therefore the time for the EU to plan for future air travel demand and avoid congestion,” it said.
“For this reason, the strategy stresses the importance of completing the Single European Sky project, optimising the use of our busiest airports, and monitoring intra-EU and extra-EU connectivity to identify shortcomings.”