Airlines disappointed at regulatory setbacks

Europe?s major airlines have expressed strong disappointment that the transport directorate of the European Commission has decided not to include a revision of what the airlines consider to be an outdated directive on ground handling services

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Europe’s major airlines have expressed strong disappointment that the transport directorate of the European Commission has decided not to include a revision of what the airlines consider to be an outdated directive on ground handling services in its ‘Airport Package’ of planned regulatory measures on the airline-airport relationship.

The European Commission’s transport directorate will not include a revision to what European airlines consider an “outdated” directive on ground handling.

In a statement, the Association of European Airlines (AEA) said that the industry needs further ground handling liberalisation, EU-wide airport charging principles and improved infrastructure, capacity planning provisions.

The original ground handling directive was adopted in 1996; its revision was originally scheduled for December 2001.

Airlines believe that access to the ground handling market should be liberalised; in their view, subjecting ground handling to more competition would in no way undermine safety, just as more competition amongst airlines has not undermined safety.

The Commission’s directorate for transport and energy has said that the revision of the ground handling directive will no longer form part of the Airport Package.

The Package, to be adopted by the Commission by the end of the month, will include a report on the effects of the 1996 directive, as observed by the 25 EU member states.

The Commission has indicated that the issue will subsequently be revived in 2007.

AEA said in a statement that it believes that barriers to entry for competitors in ground handling markets have remained in place at many airports, leading to excessive costs and inadequate service standards for airlines faced with a take-it- or-leave-it choice of handlers.

In addition, airlines have asked for strengthened airport user rights, especially at all stages of the selection process of potential ground handling service providers.

“The Airport Package is a great opportunity for the Commission to address significant deficiencies in the regulatory oversight of our industry,” said AEA secretary general, Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus.

“In the case of ground handling, it provides a chance to bring the benefits of genuine competition and strengthened user rights for airlines into an area of airport activity where competition is both achievable and desirable,” he added.

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