Despite evident post-recession traffic recovery, last month’s European Regions Airline Association general assembly in Barcelona was accompanied by the sound of axes being ground for the lobby group’s latest fight against regulators and legislators. To long-running concerns about flawed European Union passenger-rights compensation, airport slot allocation and other legislation, ERA officials now have added their complaints about costs incurred in the aftermath of the eruption of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajoekull in April.
ERA members cancelled some 9,668 flights–almost 13 percent of the 74,814 services they had planned–when huge swathes of European airspace closed during April 2010. While central Europe accounted for 43 percent of lost flights and Nordic airspace a further third, flights operating in eastern and southern areas of the region escaped relatively lightly, incurring 12 percent and 10 percent of the disruption.
Even though the ERA reported that first-half 2010 passenger traffic ran 2.9 percent above last year’s recessionary levels (or a likely 6 percent sans volcanic ash), “outraged” delegates pressed for the group to seek a legal remedy. They have instructed the ERA directorate to take “any opportunity for instigating a class action to recover damages” arising from European national governments’ failure to compensate them for events totally beyond their control.
“Europe’s politicians have sat on their hands for far too long,” said ERA director general Mike Ambrose. “Airlines have lost patience and been forced to seek alternative legal solutions to recover the additional costs they incurred. The events in April showed that air transport is an essential element of our society; it is now time for governments to recognize the value [the industry] brings to the economy and the European communities it serves.”