Europe is the number one world destination for tourism, culture and business. Its economic activity, wealth, lifestyle and ability to support its social welfare state, depend in great measure on being the origin and destination for millions of travelers who visit Europe or travel on flights within the Union. The airlines are the primary architects of this mobility and are, therefore, essential for maintaining the EU’s privileged position.
Airlines are the primary architects of mobility at the European level; therefore, maintaining their strength should be a key priority for Europe.
The health crisis that we are experiencing has paralysed mobility in half of the world, especially Europe. Airlines have had to freeze their routes and ground their fleets. This dramatic drop in activity during a prolonged period is unprecedented. The financial stress airlines are enduring, with enormous fixed costs, orders for new aircraft underway and large numbers of personnel, weakens them, diminishing their ability to extricate themselves from this situation. The possibility to fly again points to a slow and expensive recovery due to the uncertainty surrounding such factors as the evolution of the pandemic, unequal border openings, extraordinary measures for health and safety and passengers’ fear of leaving their safe environments.
Air connectivity will be essential for the recovery of our economies, and to achieve this, airlines will need to be ready to recover their activity. Mobility will not be massive again if many routes are not covered, frequencies are low and prices are higher. Americans have understood this and they have enacted a special survival plan for their airlines. Given the strategic value of aviation in Europe, if we don’t design a plan and act quickly to help airlines, recovery will be much slower. However, the plan must not distort the market for free competition between airlines – a situation which has allowed us to enjoy airlines with modern fleets, a growing number of routes and seats, as well as prices that have benefited all European citizens. Without solid and competitive air transport from the first day, everything will take longer.
Without solid, competitive air transport from the first day of recovery, everything will take longer and our world leadership position will be threatened.
On the other hand, the world aeronautic industry has two key players, Europe with Airbus and the US with Boeing, world leaders with hundreds of thousands of skilled labourers in their supply chains. If airlines suffer, the aeronautics industry suffers. What fuels the industry, is the demand for new and better aircraft. This suffering in Europe and the US will particularly give wings to China, which has been struggling to take leadership away from the world’s two great manufacturers, presenting itself as the new player. The only defence consists in maintaining the technological advantage that keeps the challengers years away, as is the present situation. But if the European aeronautics industry goes through a long period of lethargy, more worried about surviving than innovating, when we wake up, we will have competitors on our heels and Europe will have lost years of advantage in the aerospace race.
As a result, helping airlines must be a priority at the European level, and not left to the criteria of each member state. Let’s have a European vision. Let’s find in this crisis the definitive reason to be more Europe. Talking about Europe is not just arguing about solidarity within our borders; it is, above all, being united, with ambition and determination, as we look to the future.