In a strongly-worded press release sent out this morning, easyJet has made clear its disgust at what it calls “a few legacy airlines appealing for state aid through the back door”.
Explaining what’s got its hackles up, easyJet says: “Some legacy network airlines, led by their self-serving, wholly-unrepresentative club, the Association of European Airlines, are asking the European Commission to consider a suspension of the rules governing slot usage at Europe’s major airports – particularly to prevent other European airlines from using scarce slots that would be freed-up by the cutbacks expected this year.”
So to get the other side of the story (which, after all, is what I’m paid to do), I went to the AEA’s website and found this press release, which has a different take on the matter in its headline: “Airlines say no to state aid, but seek relief on infrastructure costs.” As a journalist, it’s always interesting to see how two different sides can manipulate the same words to set out their opposing stances on the same issue.
In the AEA press release, LOT Polish Airlines president Dariusz Nowak points out that LOT has reduced its winter capacity by 10% due to the economic downturn, but under current European Union rules it could not get those slots back once the market recovers. His argument, therefore, is that airlines should be able to “make capacity cuts with confidence that they would not be penalised by slot confiscation”.
Quite what the EU will make of this argument remains to be seen. What is clear is that easyJet will not take this lying down – nor, I suspect, will Ryanair, which loves nothing more than writing letters of complaint to the EU.