War of words erupts between powerful new airline group and leading airports association
21 / 01 / 2016
Five of Europe’s largest airlines have formed a new association to lobby against rising costs and have immediately taken aim at the continent’s airports.
The new Airlines for Europe (AFE) group has been formed by IAG, Air France-KLM, Lufthansa, easyjet and Ryanair and hopes to attract more members over the coming months.
It was launched on the eve of the European Union Aviation Summit in Amsterdam.
The five AFE chief executives – Alexandre de Juniac, Carolyn McCall, Willie Walsh, Carsten Spohr and Michael O’Leary – said: “We welcome the European Commission’s Aviation Strategy for a stronger and more competitive European aviation industry.
“But we need to act now – large scale airport monopolies, high charges, taxation and inefficiencies characterise 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.”
Reuters said the new association was formed after IAG left the Association of European Airlines over what it saw as ineffectiveness.
Leading airport group Airports Council International (ACI) Europe dismissed the claims of “large scale airport monopolies”.
ACI Europe director general Olivier Jankovec said: “These airlines are building their unity on our back – as they are unable to come together on major strategic policy issues such as Open Skies, let alone foster wider aviation industry alignment.
“For them, airports are just scapegoats. Their tired call for even more regulation of airports is just about boosting their profits – or supporting their own lack of competitiveness.
“There is absolutely nothing for the consumer with this agenda – let alone for Europe’s connectivity. The airlines are wilfully ignoring today’s market reality of ever-increasing airport competition.”
It also said it could not see understand figures quoted by the new association.
AFE suggested airport charges had risen by more than three quarters over the last ten years while airfares from European airlines had decreased by 20% over the same period.
ACI Europe added: “Airlines have an unfortunate tendency to forget that they pay below-cost prices for the airport facilities and services they use – and AFE appears to be no different.
“Even at the largest airports, charges levied on airlines and passengers do not cover the full cost of operating and developing the airport infrastructure – leading to a de facto subsidisation of the airline industry by European airports.”
ACI Europe would like to see aviation taxes abolished to improve the competitiveness of the industry.
Ahead of the Aviation Summit, it said: “If Europe is serious about competitiveness, then aviation taxes in the UK, Germany, France, Austria and Italy should be abolished.
“We also need to turn the Single European Sky into a reality and look at how we can stop talking about risk-based security and actually start delivering it. Last but not least, States need to come to terms with airport capacity and start looking again at the longer-term.”
Meanwhile, the UK’s Foreign Airlines Association (FAA) welcomed the formation of AFE.
AFF chairman Colin Stewart said: “The voice of the airline industry needs to be heard and with the ‘big five’ already steering the way, I am certain AFE will successfully and rapidly grow its member base and implement essential changes to the benefit of the industry and of passengers across the continent.
“Policy makers within Europe would be wise to listen to this informed and important stakeholder.”