Aviation is crucial for the European Union because it creates jobs, drives economic growth, facilitates trade and allows people to travel. More specifically, European aviation represents 26% of the world market, contributing 510 billion euro annually to Europe’s Gross Domestic Product, and supporting 9.3 million jobs in Europe. In 2015, over 1.45 billion passengers departed or arrived at EU airports.
For an open and connected aviation market, the European Commission proposed initiatives aiming to safeguard competition and connectivity of European skies. The initiatives consist of:
- a legislative proposal for a Regulation on safeguarding competition in air transport;
- interpretative guidelines on ownership and control of EU airlines;
- interpretative guidelines on public services obligations;
- practices facilitating continuity of air traffic management.
These initiatives, which are part of the “Open and Connected Aviation” package, aim at delivering two core priorities of the Aviation Strategy for Europe, namely maintaining leadership in international aviation and tackling limits to growth. Aviation is closely connected on foreign and EU airlines; therefore, in the absence of international rules, EU airlines may be subject to practices affecting competition and that in the long run may also affect the EU’s competitiveness and limit choices for travellers. The new provisions will ensure that EU can compete on the basis of equal opportunities.
To grow and thrive in a competitive environment, EU airlines also need access to investment, including foreign investment. In this regard, the guidelines on the ownership and control of EU airlines are adopted.
In order to hinder the limits to growth in aviation, the envisaged measures will address in particular efficiency and connectivity constraints. Connectivity has a direct impact on economic activity and on people’s mobility considering that more flights mean more growth and more jobs. In certain European regions however, air travel remains a challenge, which is why Member States and local authorities can introduce public service obligations to guarantee sufficient connections to the rest of their territory and of Europe. Guidelines on the existing rules regarding public service obligations in aviation adopted by the Commission will allow national authorities to address connectivity gaps. Moreover, to enhance the efficiency of European skies, the Commission aims to reduce fragmentation, which is responsible for € 3 billion of extra costs a year and 50 million tonnes of CO2. To achieve this objective, the Commission invites the Member States to consider a number of good practices to ensure air service continuity. These practices do not question the fundamental right to strike, but rather aim at improving service continuity and minimising disruption to the European network for airlines and passengers.