ERA RAC 14: Europe’s regionals need better image with politicians and regulators

The image of Europe’s regional airlines with regulators and politicians, particularly those within the institutions of the European Union needs to be improved, according to speakers at ERA’s Regional Airline Conference in Lisbon.

Simon McNamara, director general, ERA, acknowledged his belief that the air transport industry does have an image problem. More importantly, he noted “it impacts our work. We then have to defend ourselves, so regulators and politicians see us as defensive and the cycle goes around and around. We need to be proactive and influential.”

Brian Simpson, MEP, chair of European Parliament Transport & Tourism Committee, confirmed McNamara’s suspicion. “People go to politicians [about airlines] when there has been a problem, never with a compliment about their service. So the starting point is a negative position when dealing with the public.”

Olivier Jankovec, director general, ACI Europe, believes there a good enough debate about a vison for regulation. “And we need to build coalitions beyond aviation, including the passengers,” he remarked. “They support us on an individual basis, but when we hear from passenger groups we only hear about complaints.”

Mark Anžur, president and CEO of Adria Airways, commented that there could be a negative perception about performance and fares. “The trends have dramatically changed the industry over the past 10 years. In that time, passenger numbers in Europe over last 10 years are up by around 44% but yields are down 10%. The passenger expectation now is for a single fare of about €40, which cannot always be delivered,” he remarked.

McNamara posed the question of whether some of the elements that air transport delivers, such as safety, are taken for granted. “Compare air with roads,” he stated. “Road safety across Europe is terrible. The number of deaths per year on Europe’s roads is the equivalent of one Boeing 737 crashing per week.”

Jose Guedes Dias, vice-president alliances & external relations, TAP Portugal, argued that the industry needs to do a better job in pushing the stories about what it does well. “Having effective ambassadors of goodwill from among those companies or institutions which benefit from regional airlines will be good for the ERA image,” he proposed.

Bernie Baldwin, editor, Low-Fare & Regional Airlines/
Lisbon, Portugal

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