The International Air Transport Association (IATA) openly supported the announcement by the European Commission of a comprehensive program to provide relief to the air transport sector in the aftermath of extra-ordinary airspace closures resulting from the ash plume of an Icelandic volcano.
“I applaud Vice Presidents Kallas, Almunia and Rehn for their quick action. Airlines lost revenues of 1.7 billion US dollars in just six days, with the greatest impact on European air carriers. These urgent measures will provide much needed assistance to airlines at a time when their financial resources are stretched,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA Director General and CEO.
IATA highlighted its particular support for three longer-term elements of Tuesday’s announcement: Single European Sky; financial compensation and improved aviation risk management for volcanic activity.
“The events of last week clearly showed the need for the Single European Sky. I fully support Vice President Kallas in his efforts to accelerate the appointment of a European Network Manager by the end of this year. But that is one element of the Single European Sky. We also need to accelerate plans for the implementation of functional airspace blocks and a performance framework to ensure that the system is delivering efficiencies. We are looking for a strong commitment from Europe’s transport ministers on all three of these elements when they meet on 4 May” said Bisignani.
IATA estimates that the reduced delays and greater efficiency that a Single European Sky will bring will have broad benefits. It is estimated that it will save EUR 5 billion and reduce carbon emissions by 16 million tonnes a year.
Since the Iceland volcano was an event completely beyond the control of airlines, “we don’t want bailouts, but government compensation for costs—including the cost of lost revenue and providing extended care to passengers—should be provided to airlines in line with Europe’s established rules for compensating companies in such extra-ordinary events,” said Bisignani.
Bisignani said IATA fully agrees that a better framework for decision making to ensure safe operations at times of volcanic activity is needed. IATA is already working with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to apply lessons learned from this event to improve global standards and best practices”.
“The events of last week showed that aviation is critical to Europe’s life and economy. Too often aviation is over-taxed and micro-regulated. A platform to raise aviation on the policy agenda through industry/government interaction is a much needed development to follow-up on these proposals and to build a more competitive future for the sector,” said Bisignani.
IATA also welcomed the announcement of flexibility on slot rules, flight restrictions, and air navigation payments that will provide some short-term operational and financial relief. These include among other waiving restrictions on night flights and deferring fees to air traffic control.