The European Regions Airline Association held its annual media briefing on Monday 20 February 2017 at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London. The event began with a lunch where a wide range of aviation trade media gathered and had the opportunity to network with other delegates and speakers, including Simon McNamara, ERA’s Director General, Boet Kreiken, ERA’s President, and guest speaker Jonathan Sullivan, Managing Director of Seabury Aviation & Aerospace.
ERA President Boet Kreiken opened the briefing with an expert industry perspective on the current state of the European aviation market. Although 2016 had been a good year for aviation, with better results than expected, Kreiken observed that there had been some recent big changes, such as Brexit, and that the industry faced some challenges. Amongst those he noted were capacity, funding and the threat from low-cost carriers (LCCs). Kreiken reiterated the importance of aviation in the social development of Europe, creating all-important regional connections.
Jonathan Sullivan, Managing Director, Seabury Aviation & Aerospace, started his presentation with the observation that with Brexit and Trump, 2016 was the year that the regions spoke, and that communities clearly felt a lack of support. He compared ERA carriers with the larger flag carriers to show how they supported business in the regions, pointing out that many large organisations have headquarters outside major cities. Sullivan also examined the threat from rapidly-growing LCCs and lower fuel prices that allow carriers to test putting capacity into smaller, riskier markets, creating competition for ERA members’ niche operations.
Next, ERA Director General Simon McNamara gave an overview of current membership – over 190 companies in total, including 53 airlines – observing that the association was in a very healthy state in 2017. He then gave an overview of ERA’s work on five major policy areas: Brexit, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), Public Service Obligations (PSOs), EU261 and fleet financing.
On Brexit, McNamara reminded journalists of ERA’s position, established in July 2016, that Brexit is a European issue, not just a UK issue, and that the association had already been engaging with UK regulators, as well as informally with EU bodies on the subject. He outlined ERA’s plans for a formal EU campaign after Article 50 is triggered to ensure a favourable outcome for aviation, commenting: “I believe that in the two years of negotiation, we should achieve as close to status quo for aviation as possible.”
Next, McNamara outlined the status of the EU ETS, expressing the association’s support of the global scheme (CORSIA) by ICAO and frustration that the EU ETS scheme looked to continue until 2021, and discussed concerns about a potential dual scheme. He also highlighted the importance of other measures, such as the Single European Sky, which have huge potential to reduce emissions, and on which ERA wants to see increased efforts.
Another key issue for ERA members is PSOs, which the association sees as an important way of supporting regional connectivity where routes are not economically viable. New EC interpretive guidelines are now expected to be published in April 2017.
With the review of EU261 stalled, national and EU courts continue to interpret the law and have created confusion for customers as well as airlines. McNamara observed that judges had a tendency to take a purely legalistic view on EU261 cases, without taking the practical realities of what is foreseeable and inherent in airline operations into account. ERA has concerns about the effect of rulings on safety and has supported the EC in developing advice on extraordinary circumstances. The association is working on providing evidence to EASA about safety concerns and is asking the agency to provide an independent voice in cases where a flight is delayed or cancelled due to technical reasons which could impact safety.
A subject received with great interest by the gathered media was ERA’s work with the European Investment Bank (EIB) to open a new lending guideline for regional aircraft financing. ERA has been campaigning for three years to highlight the investment opportunities that regional carriers offer. The funding will help regional operators renew aging fleet and replace aircraft with new, more environmentally efficient models. McNamara explained that ERA has been working closely with the EIB and that the new financing opportunity is gaining interest from airline members as well as lessors and aircraft manufacturers, and hopes to share more news on this very soon.
The event concluded with lively debate and discussion, with journalists keen to find out more about ERA’s work and perspective on current issues impacting aviation in Europe.
ERA would like to thank the media for attending the briefing and for all the work they do to help amplify ERA’s voice.