Lack of airport capacity will stifle industry: Eurocontrol

Consumer demand for air travel in Europe by 2025 will exceed airport capacity by 3.5 million flights a year, according to Eurocontrol head of business division data information and analysis Conrad Cleasby. Speaking at an airport operations conference at the European Parliament in Brussels, Cleasby said that on current projections this will be true even if airport capacity in the continent were to increase by 60% compared with 2003 levels.

The 27-29 October Brussels conference, bringing together airlines, airports and air traffic management service providers, had an air of crisis about it. The inability to meet consumer demand, the conference was warned, will stifle the airline industry, business travel, tourism and the shipment of goods and, as the market becomes saturated, travel prices will soar.

Airports Council International (Europe) director general designate Roy Griffins says the European Commission is expected to publish a consultation document in the next few months, leading to the recommendation of a policy for Europe's air transport infrastructure development, but says the key to what happens is in the hands of European Union member states. Griffin says that if demand is to be met it cannot be done only by being more efficient with existing resources. More runways and terminals will be needed, he says, claiming the alternative is "massive congestion, poor service standards, constraints on expansion, no new entrants, lack of airline competition and the abject failure of policymakers to meet the needs of local communities and the economy".

Among the biggest demand generators are low-fare airlines. European Low Fare Airlines Association secretary general Jan Skeels says 59% of passengers on low-fare carriers is new demand, and that 71% of travellers would not have made their journey - not even by surface transport - but for low-cost airlines. European low-cost carriers carry 80 million passengers a year, she says.



Source: Flight International