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EU airline chiefs demand political steps to level playing field

Wednesday, June 17, 2015 - 19:05

[FRANKFURT] Europe's five leading airlines, many of them fierce business rivals, joined together to propose an aviation strategy that they say is needed if they're to compete with outside carriers that enjoy more political backing.

Leaders of Air France KLM-Group, Deutsche Lufthansa AG and IAG SA, Europe's biggest network operators, together with the chief executive officers of top discount specialists Ryanair Holdings Plc and EasyJet Plc, are seeking measures to boost efficiency, better regulate airports, pare taxes and prevent strikes by air traffic controllers, they said in Brussels.

"We believe this is overdue," Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said. "In other regions they are implementing their strategies quite forcefully and quite successfully."

European airlines reckon they have less local political support than carriers in areas such as the Persian Gulf, where state-coordinated aviation strategies have helped attract legions of passengers to what were once minor desert hubs.

European Union Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc, who took on the role in November, is drawing up a package of proposed aviation measures to be published in the fall.

"This is the first time we all join together," Willie Walsh, CEO of British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines Group SA, said at the briefing. "We need the industry to come together and push harder." s

Mr Walsh has said that he sees no issue with the rapid expansion of the Gulf carriers such as Dubai-based Emirates, while lambasting the UK government over levels of aviation tax and indecision over the expansion of airport capacity.

Ryanair Chief Michael O'Leary has said that the EU is too focused on passenger rights, at the expense business priorities.

BLOOMBERG