European regional airlines continued to grow in 2006 although the number of flights fell slightly, according to figures just released by the European Regions Airline Association (ERA).

Average passenger loads stood at 63.9%, an increase of almost 2.5 % on 2005 and the highest load factor recorded for year-end results since the ERA began collecting data in 1977. Average aircraft seating capacity also increased, to 70 seats.

“ERA airlines have a history of meeting challenges head-on”, says ERA director general Mike Ambrose. “By exercising prudent cost-containment strategies, these airlines have demonstrated that environmentally-sustainable growth is achievable”.

Ambrose insists that airlines are doing their bit for the environment. “Flying is one of the more efficient forms of transport”, he says. “Global airline efficiency per passenger has improved by nearly 20% over the last decade and a further 25% is expected by 2020. No other form of transport has made such consistently huge strides in limiting its environmental impact”. 

 Earlier this month Ambrose accused the British Conservative party of "McCarthyism" over its proposals for restriction and taxation of air travel. Its ideas focus on the "irrational persecution of an industry that makes an enormous economic and social contribution to Europe but which is responsible for only a very small percentage of man-made pollution", he added.