Bisignani: Europe’s airspace initiative an embarrassment

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 David Kaminski-Morrow / Paris

bisignaniIATA director general Giovanni Bisignani has vented frustration at the pace of European airspace and air traffic management reform, and the expenses airlines are shouldering as a result.
Speaking during the opening of the IATA’s 62nd Annual General Meeting in Paris, Bisignani criticised the Single European Sky airspace unification initiative, putting the cost of inefficiency to airlines at $3.4 billion.
“That’s the cost of 35 [air navigation service] providers when one could do the job,” he says.
“It’s a singular European embarrassment. Twenty years of discussion – and we are still discussing.”
While he acknowledges the development of the Single European Sky’s research programme SESAR, which will define the framework for unification, Bisignani states: “We need speed and results.”
Bisignani continued his parallel attack on airport charges, again highlighting the controversial fee hikes by Aeroports de Paris – the subject of legal action by IATA against the French Government – but also underlining the cost of operating to the US gateway at Newark, claiming that it is the world’s most expensive airport.
“There is no excuse for being about 60% more expensive than Chicago O’Hare,” he says. “Politics, not business, is driving the airport’s management.”
While airlines have reduced non-fuel costs by 13% over the previous four years, he claims, aeronautical revenues per passenger at airports and air navigation service providers have risen by 27%.
“Figures don’t lie,” he says. “The 40% reality gap needs urgent bridging. We cannot go on paying for inefficiency.”
Bisignani contrasts the cost-reduction efforts of air navigation service providers with those of airports as being like “night and day”. He describes the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) as a “good partner”, adding: “We are speaking the same language of efficiency. Benchmarking is the basis of a common agenda for change.
“I wish I could be positive about airports, but too many still hide behind their monopoly position.”
European transport commissioner Jacques Barrot, in a keynote address to the IATA meeting, said that the Commission took the airline’s concerns “very seriously”. He says: “There must be significant consultation over fees and we must improve transparency regarding these.”