The troubles afflicting the industry since 11 September have hit Europe's regional airlines, but not as hard as the mainline carriers they serve, and it may have created new opportunities for some.

At the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) general assembly in Athens, director general Mike Ambrose noted that Europe's regional carriers had been losing around €4 million ($3.7 million) a day in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, but that the results had varied widely. Some carriers had seen an increase in traffic of 20% compared with the same period in 2000, while others had seen major reductions, as high as 25%. The average though was a 14% fall. Carriers reliant on feeder traffic have been hardest hit, while other regionals appear to be benefiting from the down-sizing of the majors.

Former Tyrolean Airways president Fritz Feitl predicted that "hub bypassing would increase" as more stringent security measures increase transfer times and there will be opportunities for regionals "if they are lean and mean". Augsburg Airways president Olaf Dlugi predicted that "demand was still there" on routes which the majors could now not afford to operate. "Where there is co-operation we can easily move into vacancies in the market," he added.

Ambrose noted that regionals had already seen the economic downturn biting long before 11 September, with a third of carriers reporting a drop in traffic in the first half of the year and many already cutting costs and restructuring. "We don't know where the industry goes from here," Ambrose warned.

Worryingly, forward bookings were sharply down, by an average of 16% on 2000 figures, with some seeing a drop of 28%. On average, capacity was 15% down on 2000.

Source: Airline Business