The battle between European airlines and their Gulf rivals has stepped up to the next level with Europe’s five largest airline groups forming a new alliance: Airlines for Europe.
You may not have realised it, but Airlines for Europe believe European travellers have been getting a rough deal compared to their continental counterparts. Airlines for Europe (or A4E to use its trendy nickname) have made their first move an attempt to put an end to European travellers being fleeced by excessive airport charges and unreasonable taxes.
Launching at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, one of the busiest in Europe, A4E set out their intentions with a statement proclaiming: “The alliance will represent the interests of its members when dealing with the EU institutions, international organizations and national governments on European aviation issues.”
The alliance is made up of some unlikely comrades, from the budget carrier pairs of EasyJet and Ryanair to three of the big hitters in European skies; Lufthansa, Air FranceKLM and the International Airline Group (IAG) which is the parent company of British Airways and Iberia. Their influence is strong and this alliance is sure to get its voice heard.
The Revolution Begins
A4E are calling for a revolution. The pressures of increased competition, rising airport costs and being forced to cut ticket prices is not something they are happy about. Coupled with the suspicion that their Gulf rivals are subsidised (obviously denied by the Middle Eastern carriers) they believe revolution is necessary.
Research shows airline fares have dropped by 20% in the last ten years while airport charges have increased by 80% in the same period at the 21 largest airports in Europe. This has resulted in passengers forking out an extra €5.4 billion in airport charges in the last decade alone, despite the airlines reducing their fares. Which they don’t feel is, well... fair!
A4E was borne out of this frustration and after the breakup of a previous trade body due to differences in opinion over such issues. They have adopted a similar model to Airlines For America, A4A, which has been around since 1936, advocating its members to promote a healthy airline industry.
Not Everyone Is Onboard
This isn’t just a battle between European and Gulf airlines though. The airports have already started to fight back with a war of words. The director general of airport lobby group ACI Europe, Olivier Jankovec, said the airlines were taking “a liberal and inaccurate swipe at our industry, while the airlines paint themselves as consumer champions.”
He takes a more cynical approach to the alliance’s supposed calls for a revolution, thinking it is more so they can boost their own profits and reduce competition, rather than fighting for the hard done by European travellers.