Lonely Planet Writer

Europe’s Big 5 airlines join forces to lobby cuts in airport charges

Europe’s top airlines have put aside their normal cut-throat rivalry by teaming up to get European Union backing for their fight against excessive airport charges.

EasyJet increases connections to Iceland. Image by RHL Images / CC BY-SA 2.0.
Airline easyJet has come together with Europe’s four other biggest carriers under the umbrella of  Airlines of Europe to try to force major airports to reduce charges Image by RHL Images / CC BY-SA 2.0

Executives from the five biggest carriers have come together under a new umbrella group called, Airlines For Europe, to seek to have the “fleecing’ of passengers come to an end.

Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary says the new umbrella group for carriers will also champion a change in regulation to prevent
Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary says the new umbrella group for carriers will also champion a change in regulation to prevent air traffic control strikes Image by Niall Carson/PA Wire

The head of International Airlines Group (IAG) which owns British Airways and Aer Lingus stood side by side in Amsterdam this week with the bosses of Ryanair, easyJet, Air-France KLM and Lufthansa and used their collective muscle to get the EU to reduce costs by overhauling current regulations.

British Airways boss Willie Walsh was part of the powerful group  making representation to the EU for change in regulations on airport fees
British Airways boss Willie Walsh was part of the powerful group making representation to the EU for change in regulations on airport charges Image by David Kernan / CC BY 2.0

The five supremos pointed out that collectively they had reduced air fares while passengers were still being hit in the pocket by huge airport charges. The group, including Willie Walsh (IAG) and Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary, said reductions could be achieved if monopoly airports had to answer to what would effectively amount to regulation through reforms in the Airport Charges Directive.

The powerful airline group hope that by coming together they will wield greater influence on European aviation policy which is currently in a state of flux. In December, the EU put forward aviation strategy proposals in an attempt to strengthen competitiveness. The foundation of the Airlines For Europe movement is historic as it pits the continent’s legacy airlines and the big budget carriers in the one corner for the first time as a lobbying group.

As part of their argument at the meeting with the EU, the executives highlighted a report by Aviation Economics – a consultancy firm – that showed costs at the 21 biggest airports had increased by 80% over the past ten years. In the same time period, they stressed that the average airline fare rose by only 20%.

Michael O’Leary said the new lobby group would also urge the introduction of rules to stop air traffic control strikes. This disrupts the flying industry and he suggested there should be new regulation which insist that disputes must enter arbitration ahead of industrial action taking place.