The five founding carriers of the new Airlines for Europe (A4E) lobbying association have asserted that it represents an unprecedented level of unity of vision within the European aviation industry, with IAG chief executive Willie Walsh declaring "you are going to be shocked by just how united we are".

Speaking at a press conference inaugurating the new association, which is made up of Ryanair, IAG, EasyJet, Air France-KLM and Lufthansa, in Amsterdam today, Walsh said: "You are going to hear a very loud, a very clear, a very persistent voice representing airlines in Europe."

Carsten Spohr, chief executive of Lufthansa, says the new association will be open to all European airlines and will represent their views, "not just the five of us" and described the establishment of A4E as meaning that "this industry is finally heard as much as it should be heard" given its economic importance.

While the airline chief executives noted the association agreed on 80% of issues effecting them, Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary insists they would continue to "fight like cats and dogs" in areas where they did not share a common view. Spohr cites the issue of competition from the Gulf carriers, which he says is an area where A4E has "agreed to disagree".

Walsh encourages other European airlines to join the new association, adding that it is "no secret" that he and other airline chief executives have urged other European airline associations “to merge to get a single voice” but says this had "proven to be very difficult".

The association will be based in Brussels and will be headed by managing director Thomas Reynaert who previously ran United Technologies' European government relations office. Spohr describes it as "up and running" and says A4E will make "cost savings" compared with existing associations.

"We are delighted to have Thomas on board, he knows his way around Brussels," says Walsh. "He's professional when it comes to making sure the voice is heard."

He says the association is structured along similar lines to the United Nations Security Council, with the five founding members similar to its "permanent members". New entrants would have a more junior role he stresses, explaining: "That's designed to ensure that we keep the association focused on these core issues, because we've all been members of other associations which started off with great intentions but over time forget what they were created for and lose vision and lose focus."

Airline groups in Europe include the Association of European Airlines, largely comprising network carriers including Air France, KLM, Lufthansa Group carriers and, until last year, IAG members British Airways and Iberia. The latter two switched to the European Low Fares Airlines Association, which has EasyJet and Ryanair among its members. Regional carriers are represented by the European Regions Airlines Association, while the International Air Carrier Association largely has charter airlines in its ranks, but also counts recent IAG recruit Aer Lingus as a member.

Source: Cirium Dashboard