European Airlines To Form Lobby Group
In a serious case of testing the boundaries of the ‘strength in numbers’ theory, Europe’s five largest airlines have said they will form a lobby group of their own, separate from already-established groups such as the Association of European Airlines.
The leaders of the five groups, meeting in Brussels last week, said they will band together to help lobby for such things as lower security and airport charges, and to help prevent air traffic controller strikes which at times have crippled airlines.
"It's a historic day for European aviation because it's the first time the five of us have met together," said Michael O'Leary, CEO of Ryanair, at a press conference.
The five major airline groups are budget carriers Ryanair and easyJet, and major airlines Lufthansa, Air France-KLM and International Airlines Group (IAG), owner of British Airways and Iberia Airlines.
While the strength in numbers theory is admirable, it remains to be seen how the group will lobby when it comes to the issue of the Persian Gulf carriers.
Both Lufthansa and Air France-KLM have expressed the same concerns about Emirates, Etihad and Qatar airlines that their counterparts in the United States have. That is, the big three domestic carriers of American, Delta and United allege their Middle East rivals all take government subsidies.
But IAG supports the Gulf airlines, to the point where it pulled out of the Association of European Airlines earlier this year.
According to the Financial Times, IAG chairman Willie Walsh said the five groups agree on 80 per cent of the aviation issues in Europe and that it was important to have one “effective voice.” Alexandre de Juniac, CEO of Air France-KLM, admitted the Persian Gulf carrier issues was one that the European five did not agree on, but that each of the five airless would deal with the growth of the Middle East carriers on its own.
For now, Air France-KLM, easyJet, Lufthansa and Ryanair will remain with the Association of European Airlines and other lobby groups in the EU.
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