(November 17, 2009) -- The Association of European Airlines, representing Europe's most important network carriers, is calling on European policy-makers to convene a 'stakeholder summit' to address the challenges facing the European airline sector during the longest and deepest business downturn in its history.
The call comes as latest traffic figures emerging from AEA show no sign of improvement. Even compared to a depressed baseline in late 2008, this year's figures remain locked-in to a trend line about 2% below last year's already dismal figures. The traffic decline pales into insignificance, however, compared to the price effects of the seriously depressed market; latest yield figures show that the average ticket price per kilometre of travel has fallen by more than 15%.
Said AEA Secretary General Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus: "The foundations for a sustainable European air transport sector are crumbling. Portions of our industry are close to collapse - indeed, we have seen failures among premium carriers, leisure carriers, no-frills and cargo airlines. Some network airlines are ceasing to exist as independent entities. Others are exiting markets that they will not re-enter. Secondary markets are losing service. Tens of thousands of people employed by or sustained by the airlines are losing their jobs".
The policy-makers had a choice, said Mr Schulte-Strathaus: watch a weakened and traumatised industry struggle to rebuild within existing constraints, or take proactive steps to construct a regulatory framework within which a return to prosperity could be expedited, and European air transport re-establish itself as a powerful global force. "The US are a step ahead of us in grasping the severity of the crisis", he said. "Their government has already hosted a stakeholder forum and is setting up a Federal Advisory Committee to discuss the future of the industry".
Turning to the latest traffic figures, Mr Schulte-Strathaus said: "The AEA airlines, collectively, have failed to make a profit in the summer, leaving them ill-prepared to face what will be a heavily unprofitable winter. Decision-makers must realise that a key European resource is under threat and steps must be taken - now - to act positively and decisively to create the conditions under which prosperity can be restored as quickly as possible. I invite the European Commission to follow the example of their US counterparts and put in place a structured dialogue with stakeholders, to create the policy which will safeguard the benefits that aviation brings to Europe's citizens and businesses".
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