EUROPEAN regional passenger traffic grew by 15% in the first half of 1995, says European Regional Airlines (ERA) director-general Mike Ambrose at the association's annual convention at Baveno, Italy, on 12-13 October.

The convention itself attracted 35 airlines and 30 companies, reflecting the ERA's contention that regional aviation is the fastest-growing European airline sector.

The number of aircraft with fewer than 39 seats has been decreasing steadily. Ambrose says that one of the reasons for this is the European system of levying user charges which penalise smaller aircraft more than larger types.

The proportion of direct operating costs accounted for by user charges is at least twice as high as for the majors, he says, "...and seems to be increasing. Governments have been very keen for us to stand on our own feet, but are apparently not so keen to make their own organisations more efficient".

The ERA appears to have had some success in convincing the European Joint Airworthiness Authorities (JAA) that the forthcoming flight-time limitation rules should be amended to take into account the different operating conditions for regionals. "Our pilots have stable schedules," says Ambrose. "They have no dietary or time changes, because they operate in normal hours, like anybody else." He says that the JAA has shown "some sympathy" for the ERA position. "If we had to follow the current rules our airlines would have to increase their flight crew by up to 20%, putting some of them out of business".

Source: Flight International