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Europe’s regional carriers face challenges

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Interview with Simon McNamara, ERA director general

Air industry site ATN interviews Simon McNamara, the European Regions Airline Association’s director general, who sees a strong future for regional carriers but also outlines several challenges ahead. The ERA has 50 airline members.

“Growth areas illustrate the flexibility and adaptability of regionals – they are ready and waiting to provide capacity on a short- and long-term basis to whoever needs it, whether they are no frills carriers, network carriers or the major integrators,” he says.

ERA members still service the specialist niche routes they are known for, he explains. They are the experts when it comes to regional weather and terrain, and they provide hub feed for major network carriers. It is regional carriers’ growth as capacity providers that is setting the regional industry apart and affording it a strong future.

“In Europe there is continued consolidation among both network and no frills carriers with the market starting to be dominated by a few powerful incumbents from both business models. ERA’s role is to speak for the many carriers that don’t naturally fall into these two groups.”

But McNamara says that the ground between air and rail subsidies is uneven, and new European Union policy on access to state funding is “a step backwards”.

He adds: “One of the biggest challenges for European hub airports and Europe in general is the long-term lack of sufficient capacity at its hub airports to accommodate forecast growth.”

Another challenge is the fact that Europe has elected a new parliament and a new European Commission will soon be appointed. “We are at a turning point for European air transport policy and there are significant challenges ahead,” he says.

ATN

[pictured: Malmö Airport; photo by Kenneth Hellman, courtesy Swedavia]

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