New Pilots

Europe's Largest Airline Groups Form Their Own Association

2016 01 25

Europe’s five largest airline groups have formed a new association to lobby the European Union and national governments for reduced airport and ATC costs. Airlines for Europe (A4E) combines Air France KLM, Lufthansa Group, International Airlines Group (IAG) and low-cost carriers easyJet and Ryanair.

Officially launched on January 21 during the European Aviation Summit at Amsterdam Schiphol airport, the association affirmed its support of the European Commission’s recently released “Aviation Strategy for Europe,”a set of proposals that some airline and pilots groups have criticized as not sufficiently ambitious. European commissioner for transport Violeta Bulc posed with CEOs of the founding airlines at the launch event.

“We welcome the European Commission’s Aviation Strategy for a stronger and more competitive European aviation industry,” the CEOs said in a joint statement. “But we need to act now; large-scale airport monopolies, high charges, taxation and inefficiencies characterize the aviation supply chain. We want to work with the Commission and the member states to implement the strategy, and we call on the member states to support the work of the Commission to reduce monopoly supplier costs.”

The formation of A4E exposes ongoing divisions within the European airline industry over different issues. Last March, IAG, the parent company of Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling Airlines, broke off from the Association of European Airlines because of differences over competition from Persian Gulf carriers—an issue that influenced Delta Air Lines’ decision last year to break away from the group Airlines for America.

The A4E airlines claim to carry more than 50 percent of passengers in Europe. “A4E will be a powerful vehicle to address the industry’s issues,” the groups said. “For the first time, low-cost and network carriers are creating an association to support the adoption of a new European Aviation Strategy. Today we also call on all airlines in Europe to join us and make our voice even more powerful.”

Citing a study that found that airport charges have increased by 80 percent at the 21 largest European airports over the last decade, the A4E airlines said they want to ensure that “monopoly airports are effectively regulated” so that passengers “receive the full benefit of commercial revenues which they generate.” They also call for the timely completion of the Single European Sky modernization effort and “better economic regulation at EU level” of ATC costs assessed by national and regional air navigation service providers (Ansps). “The best way to improve the competitiveness of EU airlines is to lower the costs of monopoly providers, which would help everyone,” the airlines said, adding that they will seek an “urgent meeting” with Ansps to develop an action plan. A third focus of the association is “removing unreasonable taxes” levied by national governments.

The founding airlines named Thomas Reynaert, who formerly headed the European government relations office of United Technologies, as A4E managing director.