Amid Rising Competition, Airlines for Europe Takes Off

The newly announced trade group—the European equivalent of Airlines for America—arrives at a time of rising competition for the airline industry in Europe, particularly from the Middle East.

Competition for business in the skies is rising quickly, from continent to continent. And in response, the major players of the European airline industry are joining forces.

Five of Europe’s largest airline companies—Air France-KLM, easyJet, Lufthansa Group, Ryanair, and International Airlines Group (IAG), which represents British Airways and Iberia—banded together last week to launch  Airlines for Europe (A4E). The strategy and the name echo the industry’s U.S. trade group, Airlines for America (A4A).

“Today marks the beginning of a new era for European airlines. With the endorsement of the five largest airline groups in Europe, A4E will be a powerful vehicle to address the industry’s issues,” the CEOs of the five airline groups said jointly in a media release.

The launch event was held the day before the European Union’s Aviation Summit in Amsterdam.

“For the first time, low-cost and network carriers are creating an association to support the adoption of a new European aviation strategy,” the CEOs added in their statement. “Today we also call on all airlines in Europe to join us and make our voice even more powerful.”

A Stronger Industry Voice

A4E—which will represent member airlines in dealings with national governments, international organizations, and EU institutions—has three critical goals: lowering costs at EU airports, providing “reliable and efficient” airspace, and bringing about the end of “unreasonable taxes” on passengers. The group will also attempt to boost employment in the sector.

Travelers in Europe have felt the sting of $5.86 billion more in airport fees over the past 10 years, A4E pointed out, citing a newly released Aviation Economics study. According to the report, fees at the 21 largest European airports have soared by 80 percent since 2005. The A4E founders said that European carriers have cut their airfares by 20 percent during this time.

Another hot topic for A4E’s members is competition from Middle Eastern airlines, but the founding carriers plan to concentrate on other issues. “Competition by the Gulf airlines wasn’t an area where we could find common ground,” IAG CEO Willie Walsh said, according to Agence France-Presse.

Instead, Walsh noted, the group will “focus on areas where we have common ground.”

“Europe needs a clear plan to improve the competitiveness of aviation compared with the rest of the world,” Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said at the announcement.

Patrick deHahn

By Patrick deHahn

Patrick deHahn is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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