Bizav bounces back in Eastern Europe, but regulatory headaches remain

 - January 31, 2011, 8:00 AM

Business aviation growth in Eastern Europe is bouncing back, according to the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA). New data presented at the association’s regional forum in the Austrian capital Vienna on January 20 showed 2010 traffic throughout Eastern Europe up by 10 percent on 2009, with countries such as the Ukraine showing increases of more than 20 percent.

According to the Russian United Business Aviation Association (RUBAA), traffic levels in the second half of 2010 were close to those seen in 2008 before the full impact of the financial crisis was felt. This follows a 24-percent dip in traffic levels for the region in 2009. EBAA chairman Rodolfo Baviera reported that Russian authorities are showing a willingness to reform regulations and tax structures that have discriminated heavily against business aviation.

However, the forum also heard that regulatory inconsistencies between Western European states continue to be as serious a problem to business aviation as differences between standards with Eastern Europe. Delegates complained of significant variations in how national authorities in Western Europe define rules governing private and commercial flights.

There were also complaints about big discrepancies in the way existing rules and requirements for charter flight permits are enforced (or, more commonly, not enforced). These inconsistencies are undermining efforts to achieve common safety standards in Europe and a level competitive playing field, according to EBAA member operators.

Herve Laitat, CEO of Belgian operator Abelag Aviation, told the forum that tough economic conditions have only served to encourage operators and their clients to exploit regulatory inconsistency and to blur the line between private and commercial operators.

“Since the [financial] crisis safety has not increased at all,” Laitat said. “There has been a surge in the number of aircraft and a surge in the number of small operators looking to break into the charter sector, with a great risk from private operators shifting into commercial operations. We see more and more tendency for owners to avoid commercial rules and set up private operations, and safety is forgotten.”

The EBAA forum, staged under the theme One Europe: A Roadmap for Aligning East and West, attracted just over 100 delegates. A full report on the forum will appear in the March edition of Aviation International News.