Europe’s passenger airline associations are in informal talks on forming a joint trade body that would represent the interests of scheduled, regional and leisure carriers, Aviation Week has learned.
Merging the different organizations into an “Airlines for Europe (A4E)” set-up would have a clear cost benefit and create a unified and stronger interface between the carriers and the institutions of the European Union and other stakeholders in the value chain, insiders to the talks note. They stress that talks are informal for the time being and that many thorny issues would have to be addressed before a combined European airline association could emerge.
The Association of European Airlines (AEA), the European Regions Airline Association (ERA), the International Air Carrier Association (IACA) and the European Low Fares Airline Association (ELFAA) are involved in the initiative, although not all associations appear to have the same level of enthusiasm for the project. The European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) is not involved.
Some years ago, initial discussions on joining forces took place between AEA and ERA. The idea has gained ground owing to the economic recession in Europe and the difficulty of most associations to raise sufficient membership fees to support their operations. AEA members have instructed the association’s management to trim costs by more than 30%.
Also, the European Commission has been pushing for a more cohesive European airline voice, according to a representative of one of the associations. “The EC has said several times that we are making it unnecessarily difficult for them. They argue that it is counterproductive having to deal with multiple associations.”
A main stumbling block is reconciling the views of Europe’s low-cost carriers with those of Europe’s full-service carriers, mainly on state aid. Another major issue is how to ensure that the interests of all airlines and airline segments are equally represented and defended. “Members of some smaller associations fear that the major network carriers will run the show and marginalize the interests of smaller operators,” several sources tell Aviation Week.