Air Transport World

Merger of European regionals suggested at ERA meeting. (European Regional Airlines Organization)

Merger of European regionals suggested at ERA meeting

Trefor Jones, founder of Birmingham Executive Airways, left members of the European Regional Airlines Organization (ERA), gathered here for their annual meeting, "shell-shocked' with his suggestion that they should consider discarding their individual identities in favor of merging into "potentially the largest regional carrier in the world outside the U.S.'

Considering the radical nature of the suggestion, there was a surprising lack of reaction when Hans-Rudolf Wohrl of NFD, ERA president, threw it open for discussion. Wohrl told Jones he agreed with him 100% and that Jones was "damned right But,' he added, "it is very hard for individuals to change so completely.' The only further contribution came from Robert Bonhoff, the association's secretary general, who made the point that there is already a trend among the European trunk carriers to "think in European terms.' He instanced the recent joint service of Sabena and British Caledonian between Brussels and Atlanta via Gatwick, talks on similar arrangements between Sabena and SAS, and the fact that Lufthansa is working with Iberia and Aviaco.

More cooperation needed

Regional airline delegates questioned by ATW saw as many problems as advantages with Jones's vision. They forecast difficulties in circumventing the various European nations' laws on ownership and financing and, above all, a reluctance by many carriers to lose their national identities. Many agreed, however, that more could be done to cooperate when ERA companies fly over the same routes to the same airports.

Jones told the meeting that in the UK since 1973 a total of 74 new entrant airlines have been licensed, but that only 32 remain today. Of these, only five have more than five aircraft in their fleets and turnovers greater than $15 million. …

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