Wings of lead
Air traffic surcharges, emissions trading measures, operating time restrictions, complex approval procedures, work and social standards – a study has revealed how competition in international air traffic is becoming increasingly imbalanced.
Germany’s Handelsblatt Research Institute was recently mandated to look into the factors that actually influence the ability to compete by the country’s air traffic association (Bundesverband der Deutschen Luftverkehrswirtschaft BDL), as well as several trade unions. The institute analysed how competitive disadvantages present an obstacle to the economic success of European airlines in general and German airlines in particular.
«The ability to compete in international air traffic is generally determined at a global level, but it’s the conditions that apply in each airline’s home market that determine who will survive,» BDL president Klaus-Peter Siegloch said, at a presentation of the study’s findings on 17 March. He added that German air traffic service providers’ ability to compete has been seriously hampered by a national air traffic surcharge, prohibitions on flying at night and one-sided costs arising from emissions trading measures. Siegloch called on the German government to establish a new air traffic concept, aimed at restoring a level playing field for the German airline industry.
The study, which looked at the key factors influencing air traffic firms’ ability to compete, demonstrates that local conditions in Germany for its domestic airlines and airports present competitive disadvantages in comparison with the international scene. The study concludes, however, that policy makers have the ability to make concrete improvements to the country’s airlines’ ability to compete by cancelling the national air traffic surcharge, altering the emissions trading scheme, and lifting operating time restrictions.
Leeway for policy development
The United Kingdom saw some movement on air traffic policy when chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne announced in March that the country will reduce air traffic surcharges on long-haul flights from April. The minister, whose statement triggered far-reaching reactions, said that the tax was hurting exports and creating injustice. The Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, based in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), praised the reform, whilst simultaneously expressing the hope that soon the tax would be eliminated entirely.
The EU is continuing its political manoeuvring on the issue of emissions trading, however. Although representatives of the European parliament and the EU member states reached an agreement to introduce emissions trading in a watered down form, the environment committee rejected the compromise on 19 March. Parliament will revisit the issue on 3 April.