AEA welcomes Airport Package ground handling revamp

The Association of European Airlines (AEA), which represents Europe's leading network airlines, has welcomed a European Commission proposal aimed at increasing the competitiveness of the European airport ground handling market.
Today the European Commission unveiled the Airport Package, which includes a further push to remove artificial limits on the number of ground handling companies at European airports. The new rules will affect baggage and ramp handling, refuelling, freight and mail services.

Airlines are still dependent on service providers which, in many cases, operate as monopolies. This is not good for airlines or passengers, said AEA Secretary General Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus. This regulatory proposal is a move in the right direction because it will encourage competition and improve service quality.

At smaller airports, however, choices will remain limited. AEA believes the new rules could be further strengthened if airport users are given a greater say in the tender process where caps remain.

The Airport Package also sought to address the growing gridlock at major hub airports which leads to delays and passenger inconvenience.

New airport capacity is a Member State issue, but the Commission recognises this growing problem as a real threat to Europes competitiveness. It attempted to tackle this issue by revamping the slots rules, but this is the symptom not the cause, said Mr Schulte-Strathaus. The need for capacity at major hub airports must urgently be addressed at Member State-level.

The Commissions proactive engagement with the industry on this Package helped to avert some damaging changes, and AEA has positively welcomed the clarification of airline slot trading rules. However, AEAs Member Airlines are extremely concerned about proposed changes to the use it or lose it rule.

If this regulation is passed, it will seriously hamper airlines ability to react to changing demand, said Mr Schulte-Strathaus. Business flexibility is an absolute necessity in todays tough economic climate.

Finally, the Package includes measures to encourage greater noise stringency. The Commission has integrated some elements of ICAOs Balanced Approach into its proposal, but we urge Member States to explore the full range of noise mitigation techniques rather than focussing solely on operating restrictions.

The Airport Package proposal will now be passed to the European Parliament and Council.
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