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Thu 18 Jun 2015 10:28 AM

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‘Big Five’ European carriers unite to push for new EU aviation strategy

CEOs from Lufthansa, International Airlines Group, easyJet, Air-France-KLM and Ryanair have called for regulatory change as subsidies battle continues

‘Big Five’ European carriers unite to push for new EU aviation strategy

The bosses of Europe’s five biggest airlines have teamed up to lobby the European Commission for a new aviation strategy that manages competition from Gulf rivals.

Carsten Spohr of Lufthansa, Willie Walsh of British Airways owner International Airlines Group, Carolyn McCall of easyJet, Alexandre de Juniac at Air France-KLM and Michael O’Leary of Ryanair met in Brussels on Wednesday to ask European transport commissioner Violeta Bulc to use the EU’s forthcoming aviation strategy to support the global airline industry.

The ‘Big Five’ have asked for a new policy that cuts passenger taxes and airport costs, and seeks to protect the industry from the disruptive impact of air traffic control strikes.

According to reports, their submission to Brussels makes no mention of mounting competition from Gulf carriers, but the ongoing row over alleged government subsidies received by Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways has prompted the European airlines to form a united front.

Bulc told the National last month that the creation of a new aviation strategy with bilateral agreements intended to prevent such disputes from recurring is a key objective of the talks with the EU to devise the strategy.

“We hope to proceed with bilateral discussions with the major carriers in the Gulf, and right now we are putting together an aviation strategy and aviation bilateral agreements will be part of that strategy,” she said.

The five European airlines said in a joint statement on Wednesday: “Europe’s airlines form the most competitive sector in aviation with a diverse mix of carriers offering competition and choice to consumers. 

“This is the first time we have set aside our competitive battles to highlight the importance of a new European Aviation Strategy.

“The liberalisation of aviation in Europe in the 1990’s – creating a fully liberalised single market with a comprehensive common regulatory framework 18 years ago – strongly enhanced competition across Europe. 

“As a result, consumers have benefited with substantially lower fares and more routes across Europe and to the rest of the world.  At the same time, EU airlines have maintained leading safety standards. The range and quality of services have increased and airline costs have fallen by 1-2 percent per year for the last two decades.  

“We believe that this decline should now be matched by a reduction in those costs which airlines do not control themselves.

“As the new transport commissioner prepares a new Aviation Strategy for Europe she must drive more competition, encourage more efficiency and help reduce costs in other parts of our industry (such as monopoly airports and Air Traffic Control providers) and reduce the tax burden on passengers.”

The airlines also stressed that their recommendations would create “hundreds of thousands of jobs – particularly for young people at a time of high youth unemployment in countries such as Italy or Spain”.

One of the accusations fired at the Gulf carriers is that their growing market share has destroyed jobs in the countries they serve, but they all dispute this.

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