Many parallels can be drawn between U.S. and European regionals; both face numerous regulations and fee and taxation issues and competitive concerns with low-cost carriers and contracts with their mainline partners.
But Mike Ambrose, director general of the European Regions Airline Association, told the RAA annual conference Wednesday, basically, to that they have it easy.
Saying he is from the dis-united states of Europe, Ambrose gave this excellent synopsis of the European aviation environment:
He said his organization has 65 airlines that fly 400-mi. average sector lengths with aircraft averaging 68 seats. “Europe is far more complicated institutionally, organizationally, and culturally than the U.S. Europe, according to ICAO is 44 states. As far as the EU is concerned, it is 27 states with their own set of legislation and regulations driven by the European Commission, a set of unelected civil servants with absolute authority,” and a European parliament representing all kinds of political elements.
On top of this, Eurocontrol covers 39 states and the European Aviation Safety Association only 31. “We have multiple currencies and in each one is a civil aviation authority.” Bottom line: be happy with one FAA and one Congress.
As gravy on the top, Europe is heavily weighted toward the train and national governments own them and are pleased to provide massive subsidies to them. “Rail transport is the favored system,” says Ambrose, and is subsidized annually to the tune of $103 billion. Meanwhile, European carriers are concerned that they will be funding their equivalent to the Next Generation air traffic management system, known as Sesar, to the tune of $1.4 million per aircraft hull. “We want to see some pretty significant efficiency improvements to justify that investment.”
Finally, Ambrose says he is impressed that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who spoke to RAA on Tuesday, showed such a level of support of the air transport industry. “There is not one secretary in EUorpe that could make that speech without using the ‘E-word’…. environment. We have environment driving transportation policy.”
LaHood told the regionals that what they face are not challenges, but opportunities. Ambrose noted that in closing, saying, “Well in Europe, we are up to our necks in major opportunities.”
When asked if the U.S. and Europe are properly coordinating NextGen and Sesar developments, Ambrose said the two projects are running in parallel, but trying to solve the same problems. And it is the same across the pond—operators want to see the benefits. “There is a credibility problem with Sesar, and it is getting progressively more expensive. I really want to see some insurance that we won’t solve the same problem with two different solutions.”