Air Transport World

Capacity crunch. (European regional airlines hope to avoid peak-hour airport fees)

European regionals tie hopes of averting peak-hour airport fees on IATA bid for review of ICAO fee recommendations.

Scheveningen, the Netherlands-Maintaining a presence at the major hub airports as capacity and slots become increasingly scarce, growing environmental constraints, European Commission legislation toward liberalization, new rules on flight-crew duty hours and the prospect of value added tax (VAT) on air fares emerged as the major issues at the 10th annual meeting of the European Regional Airlines Association (ERA) here.

Mike Ambrose, ERA director general, told the meeting that ERA should support an IATA initiative that calls for a major review of ICAO's airport charging recommendations during 1991, with moves to produce fixed charges, regardless of aircraft size. "We have to make sure that when the 1991 conference closes, we do not end up with recommendations that can harm the regional sector," Ambrose said.

Ambrose, who runs ERA from an unassuming red-brick headquarters at Fairoaks Airport in Chobham, England, told ATW during a break in the meeting that at no time since he assumed the post in 1987 have "so many problems of such major impact been going to hit us in a short time period."

"The work that is being done by the European Commission must produce cost-savings for us as operators, manufacturers and employers. But many of these changes are going to have to be implemented in a very short time scale. We are going to see a crunch on capacity. For the regional sector, air-traffic capacity is not a long-term factor. But airport capacity is," he went on. "Looking down the barrel"

The director general said that the regionals will be "looking down the barrel of a loaded gun. We have to make sure that the kind of policies implemented by the BAA, which load [airport] charges on to the smaller operators, do not become the standard for Europe."

Ambrose said that ERA's 43 members carry 10.5 million passengers-70% business traffic-a year, fly 360 city pairs, have a total fleet of 460 aircraft and make 470,000 departures, compared with 288,000 departures by Lufthansa, 262,000 by British Airways and 201,000 by Air France. …

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