Julian Moxon/HANOVER

Despite above average growth and continued strong performance, European regional airlines have been warned to be "very careful" about the effects of a possible recession, according to Mike Ambrose, director general of the European Regions Airline Association (ERA).

Speaking at the ERA convention in Hanover, Germany, between 23 and 25 September, Ambrose welcomed the move towards regional jets as a sign of healthy finances and of a desire to modernise, but pointed to the danger inherent in operating such aircraft in an industry already working on tight margins. "They must be used much more carefully than turboprops. If there was a fuel crisis, or a drop in passenger numbers because of a recession, the advantages of a jet, with its higher direct operating costs would diminish".

The ERA estimates that of the approximately 550 aircraft on order by the regional airlines, two thirds are jets "-that's the exact reverse of the situation five years ago", says Ambrose. ERA carriers recorded a 13% growth in passengers in 1997 - about the same as for 1996. Load factors slipped by half a percent, to 57% "-that's still pretty good", says Ambrose.

Ambrose says the future size of the regional airline industry "will be controlled by environmental issues". He says that the perception that "aviation isn't doing anything" may lead to tougher measures to control noise and emissions - but that the 15-20 year life of aircraft make it impossible to comply in the shorter timescales likely to be required by the authorities. "The problem is compounded by the fact that the regional fleet is almost new", he adds.

As a result, ERA is to lobby the European Commission "-to make a special provision for aviation" in developing the new environmental standards.

Source: Flight International