By David Kaminski-Morrow in Paris

International Air Transport Association director general Giovanni Bisignani has vented frustration at the pace of European airspace and air traffic management reform, and the expenses that airlines are having to shoulder as a result.

Speaking during the opening of IATA’s 62nd annual general meeting in Paris, Bisignani criticised the Single European Sky airspace unification initiative, putting the cost of inefficiency to airlines at $3.4 billion.

“That’s the cost of 35 [air navigation service] providers when one could do the job,” the IATA director general told the meeting. “It’s a singular European embarrassment. Twenty years of discussion – and we are still discussing.”

While he acknowledges the progress of the Single European Sky’s research programme SESAR, which will define the framework for unification, Bisignani said: “We need speed and results.”

Bisignani continued his parallel attack on airport charges, again highlighting the controversial fee hikes by Aeroports de Paris – the subject of legal action by IATA against the French government – but also underlining the cost of operating to the US gateway at New York Newark, claiming that it is the world’s most expensive airport.

“There is no excuse for being about 60% more expensive than Chicago O’Hare,” he said. “Politics, not business, is driving the airport’s management.”

While airlines have reduced non-fuel costs by 13% over the previous four years, he claimed, aeronautical revenues per passenger at airports and air navigation service providers have risen by 27%. “Figures don’t lie,” he said. “The 40% reality gap needs urgent bridging. We cannot go on paying for inefficiency.”

Bisignani contrasted the cost-reduction efforts of air navigation service providers with those of airports as being like “night and day”.

He added: “I wish I could be positive about airports, but too many still hide behind their monopoly position.”

European transport commissioner Jacques Barrot, in a keynote address to the IATA meeting, said that the European Commission takes the airlines’ concerns “very seriously”. The commissioner said: “There must be significant consultation over fees and we must improve transparency regarding these.”

Source: Flight International